For many girls around the world, turning 16 is an exciting time- but last Friday, Malala Yousafzai marked her 16th birthday in an unbelievable way that’s sure to have lasting impact for women of all ages around the world.
As you might recall, Malala is the young Pakistani school girl tragically shot last October for speaking up about her right to education. Yet in the months since then, Malala’s health has made remarkable progress- and that’s why United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon invited her to spend her birthday at the United Nations in New York last week to share about progress for women, girls, and education.
Heralding it as “Malala Day”, the youth activist was asked to address an audience of more than 500 young leaders from around the world. When she took the stage, however, she declared: “’Malala Day’ is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights.”
So while we were far from New York, Malala’s speech had much meaning for females in Palestine- and specifically aligned with much of our women’s empowerment work here at TYO. Her entire speech is available here, but below, find a few of our favorite quotes from this fantastic moment in women and girls’ rights:
- “I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.” A key point from The Women’s Group this summer session was the great impact that comes when a woman uses her voice in her community- whether it’s securing a job to invest her income in her family, or learning to protect her child from violence in schools. Through interactive seminars or engaging film screenings, we specifically talked about speaking up- so that our voices not only demand our own value, but also bring volume to women’s issues often silenced in our community.
- “I am not telling men to step away from speaking for women’s rights, rather I am focusing on women to be independent to fight for themselves.” When we talk about certain topics in The Women’s Group, whether it’s marital violence or a woman’s value, some will occasionally ask why we’re not teaching men about these issues, instead. Malala so eloquently describes the importance here of helping women realize their intrinsic rights to be empowered- and while it’s certainly critical that men have knowledge, Malala’s point demonstrates that it’s just as vital that women feel able to take action for their own rights.
- “We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.” This sentiment is a key tenet behind TYO’s women’s entrepreneurship programs, which recognize the immense benefits from increased female participation in the workforce. It’s not only beneficial for women and their families, but also for entire nations, as increased female labor participation is key for long-term economic growth. That’s why our latest project, Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in the Middle East, focuses on empowering women with the support and training they need to become income-earners, decision-makers, and entrepreneurs in northern West Bank. This doesn’t just improve their livelihoods- but brings results for all of Palestine.
We encourage you to check out Malala’s moving, powerful speech to hear more of her courage and inspiration for the world’s women- and from Palestine to New York, Happy Birthday, Malala!
Cayce Pack is the Women’s Empowerment Program Coordinator at TYO. Above, she writes about last Friday’s Malala Day, and what it means for women in Palestine.