Education activist Malala Yousafzai marks her 16th birthday today at the United Nations by giving her first high-level public appearance and statement on the importance of education and the power of nonviolence.
Malala became a public figure when she was shot by the Taliban while travelling to school last year in Pakistan — targeted because of her committed campaigning for the right of all girls to an education. Flown to the United Kingdom to recover, she is now back at school and continues to advocate for every child’s right to education.
In support of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI), on 12 July – declared as “Malala Day” — the President of the UN General Assembly and the UN Special Envoy for Global Education with the support of A World at School initiative are organizing the UN Youth Assembly, where more than 500 young leaders from around the world will convene to accelerate the goal of getting all children, especially girls, in school and learning by 2015.
There were 250,000 people on the National Mall on Sunday to demand comprehensive immigration reform for the United States. One story that touched me deeply was that of the DREAM Walkers: Juan, Carlos, Felipe and Gaby. Four undocumented students who walked nearly 1,500 miles from Miami to Washington, D.C. to stand up for undocumented people.
“Throughout our journey, we have listened to the same repeated stories: mothers being afraid of driving their kids to school because of the ever-present fear of getting detained and/or deported, and high school seniors feeling completely hopeless on graduation date because they can’t continue their studies in higher education. We think about how millions of people undergo the same fear everyday because of their undocumented status and this has to stop. That’s way we’re walking to DC; that’s why thousands gather in DC on Sunday and millions celebrate this historic day throughout the nation.”
During their journey, nearly 25,000 people signed on (you can sign on too) to support their call for leaders to fix our failed immigration system. They also faced down the Klan in south Georgia and collected stories of uninvestigated hate crimes against undocumented workers.
These brave kids–from Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia–were brought to the U.S. by their families when they were young, have excelled in school, worked hard, and contributed to their communities. They all face the threat of being deported. They have no access to funding for going to college. So they walk in support of the DREAM Act (“Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2009”). Juan, Carlos, Gaby and Felipe chose to walk because they have run out of options. There are currently no legal pathways for them to gain citizenship, which is why they are calling on President Obama and other leaders to do everything in their power to pass real reform this year.