The Unfinished Business of the 21st Century

Ziauddin Yousafzai was a teacher and principal in Pakistan.  He is now the education attaché for the local Pakistani consulate in Birminham, England.  His daughter, Malala, was shot in the face in 2012 while riding the bus home from school in the Swat Valley of Pakistan.  She had been targeted by the Taliban for going to school.    

When she was young, Yousafzai’s wife went to school for only a few days.  She sold her books for candy and quit to play hopscotch with her friends.  His sisters never went to school and have no official identification, so he has never seen their full names in writing. 

When Yousafzai registered Malala for school, he was a very proud father.  People take education for granted in many parts of the world but it’s not common for girls to go to school in many poor, patriarchal countries, he said.  “Without education, girls are lost in oblivion.  They are ignored.  When we registered Malala for school, we were recognizing her identity.”

Yousafzai believes education “opens doors to the world of dreams” and he is now working with Malala to help bring that dream to fruition for girls.  Malala was shot two days before the United Nations’ first International Day of the Girl.  She has become a voice for the 66 million girls around the world who are not in school.

Yousafzai and his daughter are working to change attitudes by advocating with governments, spreading Malala’s message, and by connecting with grassroots education groups.  They are starting to see much needed change in the Swat Valley of Pakistan where they were living when Malala was shot.    

Hilary Clinton recently said, “If women and girls everywhere were treated as equal to men in rights, dignity, and opportunities, we would see political and economic progress everywhere.  So this is not only a moral issue, which of course it is.  It is an economic issue and a security issue, and it is the unfinished business of the 21st century.” 

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Debbie L. Kasman

Principal Newcastle Public School and Author of Lotus of the Heart:  Reshaping the Human and Collective Soul