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Equal opportunities. Greater power — to all.

Girls’ Education: And the On-Going Fight for it

Malala Yousafzai’s story hit the global sphere on 9 October, 2012. As many celebrate ‘Malala Day’ earlier this week on 12 July, we took this chance to dive into the crux of the watershed event Malala Yousafzai endured, and the message she seeks to perpetuate with Malala Fund.

A little background to Malala Yousafzai

On 9 October 2012, Malala, a 15-year-old girl, along with two other girls, were shot by Taliban gunmen. Malala was specifically targetted by the terrorist group for her activism for girls and their education, which contradicted the terror group’s misogynistic ideals and which forced many girls out of education.

One way in which Malala brought light to the suffering of girls in Pakistan prior to the shooting was her anonymous blogging which she did with BBC, under the name “Gul Makai”. It revealed the brutality and horrors of resistance girls faced everyday just for attending school — an affair that many of us take for granted here in Singapore.

The Waves Malala Created, Still Reverberating Today.

Not only did Malala survive the gunshot to her head, but the incident also underscored the prevalence of violent gender discrimination girls still face in certain societies and projected it globally. In the years following the attack, Malala has made continuous efforts to amplify her voice of resistance against the oppression of girls’ rights, as well as creating the Malala fund, a charity that supports girl’s education and rights.

The organisation also conducts extensive research, putting concrete numbers to the profound impact of girls who are denied access to education. These research often also draw relations between education and other sectors of concern, including Covid-19 and climate change, and in different parts of the world. Today, her movement has burgeoned to represent other societies globally that discriminate against girls from receiving equal access to education.

Education is a poignant facet in the discourse of feminism. Whilst many of us are in privileged enough societies to be speaking up for female representation in workplaces and parliament, it remains that the most basic form of empowerment - education - is not equally accessible to girls in parts of the world.

The Numbers

These numbers are generated by research done by the Malala Fund.

The gravity of how deprived girls are of education is made more tangible by these numbers that far exceed the population of Singapore.

There is still a great disparity in the opportunities granted to girls and boys, especially in third world countries. Even if they had access to primary education, they are often cut-off from secondary education, stemming from a fundamental misconception that it is “useless” to educate daughters.

The onslaught of the pandemic has only hit the girls of these nations harder, driving a further 20 million girls out of school. This means that the impact of the communities of uneducated girls will be multiplied in the years to come, post-pandemic.

A great number of girls are also cut off from access after only a primary school education. While it can be argued that this is better than a complete lack of education, girls with secondary education are able to contribute back to their families, communities and economies in greater folds. It is also poignant to note that the reason girls are left out of secondary education is due to deep-seeded beliefs that girls belong to only the domestic sphere, and are not required to have the knowledge/skills that prepares boys to join the workforce.

These numbers serve to show the very fundamental issues that continue to perpetuate gender inequality, which exacerbates economical, environmental, psychological and physical knots.

1. Girls’ Education strengthens economies and can add ~USD$12 trillion to global growth.

Educating girls equates to an overall more skilled pool of workers, who are also equipped with better communication and problem-solving skills. This improves workplace efficiency and harmony, aiding growth in economies.

2. Educated girls are empowered to foster healthier families both physically and psychologically

According to Malala Fund, “Each additional year of school a girl completes cuts both infant mortality and child marriage rates.” Educated girls are also empowered to make better decisions for themselves, and their children. Child marriages will be less likely to happen, and the spread of STDs/HIV can be reduced. Educating girls also empowers them to understand their physiology and emotions better, and allows them to build families that are healthier.

3. Investing in girls’ education builds stabler communities with increased security as sentiments of extremism are avoided, and can cut the risks of war in half.

The fact is that there is a sore lack of female representation in many societies, which can, and do, lead to imbalance discourses. By educating girls, we are allowing more women to be able to partake in such discourses about the very societies and situations they are in as well, and offer alternate perspectives and solutions for more well-rounded decisions. In some countries, this can even help with the reduction of risks of war by as much as 50%.

4. Girls Education and Climate Change

The relation between the two is an unfair one. While Climate Change will push more girls out of education, more educated girls can improve climate change conditions. Additionally, Director of Research and Policy at Malala Fund, Lucia Fry, adds that “Girls in lower-income countries are the least responsible for the climate crisis”, so it is ironic that they are to bear the consequence of a deprivation of education, when that is a precise way to reduce the impacts of climate change.

The fight for girls' education is an on-going one and the situation continues to evolve with the environment. Malala Day that falls on 12 July is but one reminder out of the entire year the importance of this movement.

Find out more about Girls’ Education and the research that Malala Fund has conducted at https://malala.org/research.

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