By Alyse Nelson, CEO of Vital Voices
Today Malala Yousafzai sent a bold message to the world: I want every girl to be educated.
When the world heard what happened to Malala, we came together in solidarity and compassion. This was not a random act. This was a targeted attack on a girl who was speaking in her own voice and on behalf of so many for a basic human right—the right to go to school, to learn, to pursue the future she saw for herself. We knew we needed to do something to support Malala. At Vital Voices, we invest in women who are improving our world, and that’s just what Malala does through her courageous advocacy.
At 15, Malala is a leader. She reminds us that leadership is not about title, position, or age. It’s about the actions that you take and the decisions that you make on a daily basis. It’s about values that endure, uncompromised. It’s about conviction and sacrifice.
Long before her attempted assassination shocked the world, the teenage blogger from Swat Valley, Pakistan, was an activist. She wrote about life under the Taliban for BBC Urdu using the pen name Gul Makai.
When I met with Malala’s father in Birmingham in December, he told me that Malala woke up to a flood of messages from girls all over the world. Many thanking her for her courage and telling her she should get the Nobel Prize for being a voice for girls. Her response? Malala simply told her father that all she wants to do is return to Pakistan and help girls go to school. Just last Friday, Malala was officially nominated for a Nobel Prize.
If we want to honor Malala, if we want to ensure that she did not endure tragedy in vain, we need to make her dream a reality. Today, we honor Malala’s vision through the Malala Fund, her means to support the education and empowerment of girls in Pakistan and around the world.
Malala motivates other girls around the world to choose leadership, to recognize that they have a voice, a platform. She has spurred a movement that reaches around the world to bind people in rural towns and wired cities in a collective commitment to preserve every child’s right to education.
Her message is clear: education is empowerment. What I’ve seen in my work around the world is that denying a girl her education means denying her chance to a future. Education leads to economic growth, improved health, and reduces the risk of child marriage. And yet, this basic human right is denied to 61 million children of primary school age, including 32 million girls.
Malala is ready to keep fighting, and so are we. In partnership with initiatives including the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up, we are a small group of committed individuals—education entrepreneurs, filmmakers, tech leaders, and engineers—who came together to form this fund in six days. We are committed to keep Malala’s mission thriving while she recovers, and when she’s ready, Malala will lead the fund.
Before she was attacked, Malala was in the process of setting up an organization with her friends that would provide opportunities to attend school for girls who were forced into domestic labor. Now we are ready to disperse a grant to an organization in Pakistan that supports girls’ education by incentivizing them to attend school.
The work has only just begun, but today marks a new beginning. Join us and learn more, visit Malala Fund.