Today is the first-ever U.N. International Day of the Girl, a day dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of educating girls and young women around the world. It's meant to be a day of hope and celebration, but the brutal attack on against a Pakistani teenage education advocate named Malala Yousafzi has changed the tenor of the day. Malala was shot for promoting girls' education in Pakistan's Swat Valley.
As Malala recovers, Pakistanis of an array of political and religious affiliations have united in protest of the attack. Yesterday, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton called for renewed global efforts to support the education of girls. "We should be dedicating our efforts to brave young women, some of whose names we will know, and some who's names we will never know, who struggle against tradition and culture, and even outright hostility and sometimes violence," she said.
Tara Abrahams, deputy director of the 10x10 campaign, explains why educating girls is such a powerful force for change, while Shabana Basij-Rasikh, managing director of the School of Leadership, a girls' boarding school in Kabul, explains how her own struggle for an education as a girl growing up under Taliban rule inspired her to start a school of her own.
Shabana Basij-Rasikh says she can relate to Malala's determination to be educated, no matter what it took. When she was growing up under the Taliban regime, she would dress as a boy in order to go to school, using the disguise to escort her sister to that school as well. But she also insists that not all men in Afghanistan and Pakistan want to prevent women from becoming educated.
"You have people like my father, like Malala's father, and many other fathers, who are the men behind these girls," Shabana says. "Behind every successful woman, there's always a father who recognized the value in his daughter. It's that kind of father that we need to bring on board, we need to bring them into the conversation about supporting and advocating for girls' education."
However, it will take more than fathers to foster opportunities for girls' educations. This is why 10x10 is making an effort to raise awareness and advocacy not just in countries like Afghanistan, but around the world.
"The idea of 10x10 came from what global development experts have known for many years, which is that when you educate a girl, extraordinary things can happen," Abrahams says. "Ultimately, in the long term, crop yields can increase, peace and security improves, GDP can rise. So what 10x10 is trying to do is illustrate the multiplier effect that happens when you educate girls."
Shabana hopes that girls like the ones at her school will continue to fight for their right to be educated. "Many of the girls in our boarding school are the first in their families to receive an education," she says. "Had they stayed in their provinces they probably wouldn't have been able to continue with their education."