On Thursday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon announced that November 10, 2012 will be observed as Malala Day worldwide.
November 10 marks 30 days since 15-year-old Pakistani Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck by Taliban gunmen while returning home from school. She was targeted for her activism regarding education and women’s rights and for repeatedly standing up against the Taliban.
To celebrate Malala and her work, UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown will present to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari a petition signed by over 1 million people from across the world. The petition calls for a plan to enable education for all Pakistani children, regardless of gender and to outlaw discrimination against girls. Around 5 million children in Pakistan are currently out of school.
Malala, who is currently recovering from the attack and receiving special treatment at a hospital in Birmingham, had started blogging for BBC Urdu at the age of 12. In her blog posts, she talked about the Taliban’s gradual takeover of the Swat Valley, where she lived, and the dire consequences this brought for education, girls education in particular, as the Taliban blew up school and prohibited girls from attending school. She also presented her and other girls' struggle to continue attending school and revolt against the Taliban's actions.
In late 2009, Malala started appearing on television as an advocate for female education. In 2011, she was presented the National Peace Award, given to individual’s under the age of 18. While her relentless advocacy work made her prominent in the broader movement for education and women’s rights in Pakistan, it was the Taliban’s assassination attempt that transformed her into an international symbol of education. Ban Ki-Moon has declared that Malala is an inspiration for the education of girls around the world.
UK activists have been demanding the British government to nominate Malala for the Nobel Peace Prize, for her symbolic work on behalf of girls’ and women’s right to education and for her fight against the Taliban. More than 30,000 people in Britain have signed a petition to request her nomination for the peace prize. Similar campaigns have been initiated in France, Canada and Spain.
Malala’s nomination is still to be discussed by the British government. Nevertheless, for now, as the Huffington Post emphasizes, Brown’s trip to Pakistan on November 10 might indicate the beginning of a new era for global education. Ban Ki-Moon hopes that celebrating Malala day will boost the United Nations’ Education First Initiative and further emphasize that education is a right for all. There are currently 61 million children living without access to school around the world, of whom around 32 million are girls.