Day of Action for Malala and the 61 million
Call for international day of action for the millions of children worldwide denied education.
In his position as UN Special Envoy for Global Education former British prime minister Gordon Brown is heading a campaign that aims to give all children access to school by 2015.
And he is calling for November 10 to be a day of action, after the shooting of 14 year old Malala Yousufzai and the global reaction to her story.
Around the world vigils and protests have been organised, with crowds holding signs which say ‘I am Malala’ – and Malala’s name and face have become a symbol for the universal struggle for the right to education.
Malala is one girl. In Pakistan, Malala’s home, 5 million children are not in school. Of those 3 million are girls.
Globally, 32 million other girls have no access to school.
Globally, 61 million children have no access even to primary education.
Malala was shot by members of the Taliban, who oppose education for girls throughout the region. Since the end of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, huge strides forward have been taken towards re-allowing girls’ education, but their attendance faces aggressive opposition.
In April this year the water supply at a girls’ school was poisoned, and in May another had a toxic poison released into the classrooms. Both attacks are believed to have been carried out by Taliban insurgents.
Whilst the attacks on education in these instances are politically or religiously motivated, around the world there are a plethora of other obstacles to attending school for millions of children.
It is estimated that each year 10 million girls are forced into marriage, and domestic duties end their school life.
Over 15 million children around the world today are in forced labour - they too are denied access to basic primary education.
Other barriers to education include poverty, natural disasters and war.
On November 10 Gordon Brown will be visiting Malala’s native Pakistan. He will meet the president of Pakistan, and intends to hand over a petition to ask for changes in Pakistan’s government to be made that will enable more and universal access to education in the country.
But he hopes that this day of action will be about more than just Pakistan.
He is encouraging supporters to mobilize – with local events and social media campaigns – to stand alongside Malala and support her in her desire for global access to education.
The global petition, which you can sign here, will also be handed to the United Nations in an act to show the support that has been galvinised for the 2015 deadline.
Alongside the petition is a powerful video produced by the Education Envoy, which brought tears to my eyes.
If you are reading this, then the likelihood is that you – like me – have had the extraordinary privilege of an education. It is something that we easily take for granted.
But given its importance, all children should have the right to education.
That so many millions are denied it should cause us outrage.
The plight of Malala has got the media to focus a great deal of attention on the issue, but denial has long been a reality for children the world over.
Let us make now the time that change happens.
The numbers may seem insurmountable, but we can all begin to play a part in reducing them.
As Gordon Brown says: “Change is possible. Indeed it is not only possible - it is the only alternative”.