Three years ago the case of Malala Yousufzai, a Pakistani teen, made headlines all over the world. Malala, a fourteen-year-old girl at the time, was a women’s rights activist in her community. She fought for her right and the right for other women to have an education. She even started a blog on the subject under a pseudonym. Though Malala was just a young girl, the Taliban viewed her as a threat, and they sought to quell her message. She was attacked and shot in the head and neck, but she miraculously survived her injuries and has not allowed the brutal attack to hinder her message. But Malala is just one story of many where extreme violence has been used against women to stop them from empowering themselves.
Since the story of Malala went viral, we in the United States have become increasingly aware of the disparate rights of women and girls in other countries. Women all over the world fight for an education, and many face being married off long before they reach their sixteenth birthdays. Let Girls Learn is a White House initiative to ensure that education is available to women and girls throughout the world. The United States plans to begin its outreach efforts in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Breaking down the barriers
Throughout the world, there are as many as sixty-two million girls who are school age but are not in school. In addition to that sixty-two million, there are many more girls who are struggling to maintain and further their education. Attitudes against the empowerment of women are to blame among many other reasons. For instance, education may be too expensive for a woman’s family to afford. Extreme poverty and disease can also hinder schooling. The education of a woman in her home country may not be encouraged, or young girls in that country may be forced to take on the roles of wife and mother early in life. In some parts of the world, as President Obama puts it, “Women are valued more for their bodies than for their minds. That’s just plain wrong. And we all need to do more to stop it” (Weekly Address, March 7, 2015).
Let Girls Learn not only plans to bring education to girls across the globe, but also plans to work toward breaking down the barriers that prevent women from learning. Providing immunizations as well as clean water, food, and other resources are just some of the ways that USAID and the Peace Corps are working to break down these barriers.
Do your part to empower women!
As a woman working in the education field, Let Girls Learn is an initiative that I am passionate about. However, we must all recognize the need to empower women across the globe. If you are interested in getting involved, visit http://www.usaid.gov/work-usaid/take-action to see how you can make a difference.
USAID Let Girls Learn Initiative: http://www.usaid.gov/letgirlslearn
President Obama’s Weekly Address on the Let Girls Learn Initiative: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuFQz1zbNog