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11. Oktober 2012

Girls without Borders ©SWI

Promoting Girls' Rights from the Swat Valley to New York

Who is Malala Yosufzai, the 14-year-old schoolgirl that had the courage to speak up against the Taliban? For many of us, she is the symbol of the future of Pakistan and represents the courage of girls around the globe. Pakistan is often viewed as being too lenient toward Taliban ideologies and activities, but the attempted silencing of Malala is creating a ripple effect across the country.


Our SAVE representative in Pakistan, Arshi Hashmi, an assistant professor at the Defense University in Islamabad, sent us this message:


“She not only stood up against Talibanization, but convinced other girls that they can also dream of education and freedom of expression without any fear. The attackers were successful in targeting her, but they had perhaps not realized that their act would create huge resentment and protest in the country. TV channels, newspapers, and the highest authorities including the chief of army staff Gen. Kiyani visited her at the hospital condemning the attack. Major political parties, both conservative and liberal, held huge prayers for her recovery. Schools, colleges and universities all had a moment of silence and prayers for her.


Malala’s case has made quite clear that girls’ education is not a personal issue, it is political. And this time, the media got it right: Malala was targeted as an individual, but journalists immediately recognized the far-reaching symbolic consequences of her attempted assassination—all girls who strive for education as a means to create a new Pakistan were also targeted through this act. Arshi has captured the mood across Pakistan:


“The more Taliban wanted to create fear in the society, the more people have come up against the act. In Swat, where the attack occurred, common people spoke up against the attack. Pakistanis are sad; they are ashamed of not having protected this girl who is confident, full of hope and action for change. This is an important moment: if we as a nation let this pass without any stern action against the Taliban, then nobody will ever be able to stand up against violent extremism and terrorism in the name of God.”


Arshi puts her description in the right context: “Let's hope that the society will continue to speak out against this insanity and break the culture of silence that has been benefiting the extremists.”


But now the responsibility rests with us—with all of us-- to support these girl leaders and their courageous efforts to achieve education, peace, and equality in their societies. The experienced and seasoned women’s rights activists who emerged during the 70s and 80s were obsessed with issues of gender and power. We were—and still are—so busy pushing the movement forward that they overlooked supporting and bringing in the next generation of girls. Fortunately, however, girls have taken enormous strides forward on their own—but now they need our support more than ever.



Pat Mitchell, president of the Paley Center for Media, is one of the biggest champions of women’s and girls’ leadership of our time, and she suggests two very concrete tools women have to support the new generation of emerging girl leaders: media and money.


Pat sends a very hopeful message to the world—there has never been a better time or better place to be a woman, at least in the West. But this means that we have not only rights and resources, but also responsibilities: “Let’s begin with what we have …There is more wealth in the hands of women than there has ever been at any time in history. We are moving very fast on a trajectory toward owning and controlling 40% of the wealth in the world…So is this wealth making us more powerful as well as more prosperous?


And then we have media. Media and technology that is more transformative, more influential, more powerful, than it has ever been before. Mobile phones…are making it possible to change lives.


And then I can’t help but question—are we doing all that we can? Are we doing more than just tweeting and talking to each other and keeping in touch?”


It is absolutely vital that we do more—we must seize the tools that we have and support the efforts of girls around the world. It is not just us who shape the world for the next generation—the next generation deserves our backing in shaping the world for themselves.


Be sure to watch Pat Mitchell’s entire speech on the effect women can have using media and money at the Womenetics 2012 Global Women’s Initiative:




Just an afterthought on the occasion of the first International Day of the Girl: we must not forget that promoting the rights and status of girls is not only a human rights imperative, it is good for all of us. The involvement of girls has far-reaching positive consequences for social stability, peace, the economy, and civic growth. Today, girls around the world are making critical contributions to science, social affairs, and sports (among many other fields): Naomi Shah won the 2011 Google Science Fair Award in the 15-16 year old category for developing a new mathematical model to determine the effects of air pollution on asthma; Nujood Ali brought international media attention to the plight of child brides in Yemen and around the world after bravely asking a judge for a divorce—aged 10; and 16-year-old Ye Shiwen took home the gold medal in swimming for China at the 2012 Olympics, setting a new world record and swimming faster than her male counterparts.


Women without Borders supports and promotes girls without borders.

 
 

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