There is no better example of bravery, of courage, of determination, of change than Malala Yousafazi. As a young girl growing up in Taliban controlled Pakistan, she captivated audiences by sharing her diary with the BBC of the struggle for girls' education. At only 11 years old, she documented the fear girls around her country had just for attending school. She wrote about her objection to the Taliban's prohibition of female education and became the world's only window to what was happening in this area. She boldly wrote about the intimidation tactics the Taliban used to coerce girls into not to going to school. In one interview she said, 'I don't mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education.” Malala was over 10 years younger than me and she was standing up to world leaders urging them to do something about the state of affairs for women.
I first learned of this incredible girl in October 2012 when Taliban militants responded to her courage by shooting her in the head and neck on the way home from school. When they shot her, their message to the world was simple: girls have no right to an education. Fortunately, she survived the attack and is expected to make a full recovery, but Taliban leaders have vowed to continue their efforts to kill her and her father. This has not stopped Malala. Her voice is louder than ever. In her first interview since the attempt on her life, Malala told the world, "I want every girl to be educated." Today, on her 16th birthday, she is addressing the UN General Assembly, to ensure free compulsory education for every child. Even in the face of persecution, Malala is standing up for the rights for all children around the world.
On my last trip to Namibia for Unlock Foundation, I carried a photo of Malala in my backpack wherever I went. I knew that Malala had started something big. She represents the students at our partner school in Divundu who share one textbook for an entire class. She symbolizes the young girls that skip school each day during their period. She embodies the boy and girls at our partner school in Ghana who do not have access to proper sanitation, and miss classes due to an illness. She is the girl whose family can’t afford to send her to school. Malala is the voice for the 57 million children who are not in school.
That picture is still in my backpack and will remain there, as a reminder of the unbreakable will of the human spirit. She has taught me to use my voice, and never be silent or afraid. There is much more work to be done, and we will continue to grow Unlock Foundation because every child has a right to an education.
Today and everyday, I will Stand with Malala.
-Scott Karrel, Founder and Director of Unlock Foundation