With a comprehension of human nature typically not seen in someone of only 16 years of age, Malala Yousafzai explained the motivation for literally risking her life for everyone’s right to education by saying: “We are human beings…we don’t learn the importance of anything until it’s snatched from our hands.”

In an interview with Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, well-known educational activist Malala Yousafzai once again stunned the world through the embodiment of such pure compassion and altruism that left her usually quick-witted host speechless.

She described her home of Swat Valley, located in Pakistan, as a peaceful paradise of natural beauty with flowing rivers and lush green hills. It was not until 2007 that the Taliban in her hometown had begun attacking schools and anyone they deemed anti-Taliban. Malala recounted how she realized how crucial education was after recognizing the Taliban feared the power of an educated woman.

The empowerment and liberation these young girls felt in school was too great for their community to surrender to the Taliban. Schools went underground, removed school signs and tried to continue educating children even under the possibility of being attacked by the Taliban.

When asked what motivated her to stand up for education, she spoke of the inspiration her father gave her who was also an activist for women’s rights and education. His example gave her the courage to take the fight for her rights into her own hands rather than wait for the government to intervene.

By raising her voice on multiple platforms from her blog with BBC Urdu, to appearing on media channels, Malala generated enough awareness of Swat Valley’s situation and advocacy for women’s education, that the Taliban labeled this 14-year-old girl as a threat. She explained that the Taliban attempted to rule Swat Valley through fear and the misuse of Islam. Malala refused to back down and instead used her intelligence to articulate her experience and subvert the Taliban’s tyranny, but in turn risked her life.

After a friend told her that the Taliban were targeting her, she described what she planned to do if a member of the Taliban was about to kill her. With her steel resolve, she stated to Jon Stewart and everyone around the world watching that she would never retaliate against the Taliban, because doing so would make her no different than a terrorist.

Dialogue and compassion would be her weapons of choice, and she would tell the Taliban she fights not for her education, but for the education of all – including the Taliban’s children. Such blunt advocacy for peace and pacifism momentarily left Jon Stewart in silence until he comically asked if Malala’s father would be mad if he adopted her.

Other great leaders in history have came to similar conclusions when faced with the idea of violent suppression. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and now Malala Yousafzai have displayed a similar capacity for compassion and peace that great change often necessitates.

It requires a certain level of vision and passion to make people gravitate towards the leaders of grand social movements and it is evident in the actions and resolve of Malala Yousafzai that she poses such qualities. It is now up to the people across the world to pick up their pens and raise their voices as Malala has done and join the fight for equality she has risked her life for.

Jacob Ruiz

Sources: The Daily Show, USA Today
Photo: Jezebel



Malala Yousafzai Facts


Young girls in underdeveloped countries all over the world occupy a crucial position in the overall equation of global poverty. Because the majority of these girls lack a significant amount of education, and are strictly bound by cultural principles like child marriage, they have little ability to make any decisions for themselves, and often find themselves facing sexual violence and pregnancy at a young age.

There is an estimated 250 million girls living in poverty today. In places in South and West Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, 1 out of every 8 girls is subjected to a child marriage, and 1 out of every 7 girls give birth before the age of 17. Infant and maternal mortality is very common in cases of child marriage because of the significant lack of resources and education in these underdeveloped countries.

Education is intrinsically linked to these young girls who otherwise could encounter a child marriage. Without education young girls are subject to others who make decisions for them.

Providing adolescent girls with proper education would supply them with the skill set necessary to choose healthy paths for their lives. If primary education were required for all girls living in South and West Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa there would be 14% fewer child marriages. If all of these girls also received secondary education there would be 64% fewer girls bound in marriages at a young age.

It is economically wise to invest in the education of young girls as primary education has been proven to increase a girls’ future wages. The problem is many of the regions in which poor adolescent girls live devalue their lives. Patriarchal values have a very dominant presence, making it easy for young girls to follow in the steps of cultural tradition despite how much it inhibits their own futures.

Educating young girls would teach them to resist the pressures of a society that urges them into early marriages. Education would also prepare girls to confront situations and injustices where they are being taken advantage of. Girls would be better equipped to stand alongside other women and fight for their right to education, just as Malala Yousafzai did, her example now an act of heroism and inspiration for girls everywhere.

Supplying young girls in impoverished countries with a quality education would have a significant impact on the current state of poverty, introduce a major decrease in infant mortality, and promote a healthier and more empowering environment for young girls to thrive.

– Chante Owens

Sources: The Guardian, Reuters
Photo: Educate a Child

This author’s previous post illuminated philanthropic quotes from five of the greatest male writers of our times. Here, we introduce to you five great female writers and what they have to say about giving back:

So many gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind,
Is all this sad world needs

—Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Wilcox was an American poet whose style was simple, but the meanings therein were often profound. Some of her great works include Poems of PassionA Woman of the World, and Poems of Peace.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.

—Maya Angelou, As a writer, poet, and a significant member of the Civil Rights Activists during the 1960s, Angelou is perhaps most known for her autobiographies, including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Other famous works include Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I DieThe Heart of a Woman, and Letter to My Daughter.

As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way.

Mary Anne RadmacherRadmacher is a writer and artist, and teaches writing seminars. She is best known for Lean Forward into Your Life, and Live Boldly.

No one has ever become poor by giving.

Anne Frank. While hiding with her family from the Nazis during World War II with another family in Amsterdam, she kept a diary which was discovered after her death in a Nazi concentration camp. Her diary, The Diary of a Young Girl, is well known across the world as the heartbreaking memoir of a young girl’s transition into adolescence and an attempt at understanding an adulthood she’d never reach.

Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.

—J.K. Rowling, a writer with a rags-to-riches story, is not one who needs to be convinced of the importance of giving back. After making it to the list of richest people in the world in 2011, Rowling managed to donate so much money that she failed to make it to the list in 2012. Along with her multi-faceted fantasy Harry Potter novels, JKR is known for The Casual Vacancy, and The Cuckoo’s Calling, which was written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

– Aalekhya Malladi

Sources: GoodReads, Poetry Foundation, Telegraph
Photo: HTML Giant

modern day slavery shocking facts
The facts about modern day slavery are shocking and remain largely unknown to much of society. Below are the top modern day slavery facts.


Top Modern Day Slavery Facts


1. When Americans think about slavery, what often comes to mind is the transatlantic slave trade, Africans displaced from their homeland and the Underground Railroad. Though slavery has officially been abolished, modern day slavery exists. Slavery is not simply a thing of the past. It is estimated that there are anywhere from 20 to 30 million people who are in slavery at this moment. This is a large increase from the 12.3 million slaves estimated in the 2005 study done by the International Labour Organization (ILO). The number is huge and leaves many wondering what can be done to help those who endure the cruelties of others who enslaved and stripped these individuals of their freedom.

2. Contemporary slavery is not restricted to just one area. Forced labor lies within the realms of sexual abuse and prostitution, state-enforced work and many others. According to the ILO, someone is enslaved if he or she is:

  • forced to work through mental or physical threat
  • owned or controlled by an “employer,” usually through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse
  • dehumanized, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as “property”
  • physically constrained or has restrictions placed on freedom of movement

3. As of 1981, slavery is not considered legal anywhere. That year, Mauritania became the last country in the world to abolish slavery. However, the act of owning slaves didn’t become a crime in Mauritania until 2007. That being said, many in the country defied the law regardless. In fact, only one slave-owner has been successfully prosecuted in Mauritania. Despite the fact that slavery is illegal, it continues to happen and the practice affects all ages, races and genders.

4. Slave-owners often use euphemisms instead of the term “slavery” in order to avoid getting caught. Such euphemisms include: debt bondage, bonded labor, attached labor, restavec (a French word that means “one who stays with”), forced labor and indentured servitude.

5. According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2007 Trafficking in Persons report, there are 800,000 people trafficked across international borders every year; 80 percent of those victims being female. Even more shocking is the fact that 50 percent of these people are children under the age of 18. These victims live within 161 different countries.

6. Slavery doesn’t just reach adults; children are a very large part of contemporary slavery, especially in prostitution. According to the U.S. Department of State, one million children are exploited by the global sex trade every year. The average age a teen enters the American sex trade is 12-14 years of age. These children are typically runaways who were abused sexually at an even younger age.

7. The average cost of a slave is about $90.

Samantha Davis

Sources:  CNN: Freedom
Photo: Lisa Kristine


Nicaragua Law 779 Women Protesters Face Attackers
Thousands of Nicaraguan women have taken to the streets and protested against the recent reforms made to the Comprehensive Law Against Violence Toward Women (Law 779), which could make women who have been victims of sexual crimes participate in face-to-face mediation with their abusers.

Implemented in June 2012, Law 779 criminalizes violence towards women and has been criticized since its implementation by opponents such as conservative and religious organizations, as well as men’s groups, and has been accused of promoting discrimination toward men. These groups also strongly prohibited the law’s initial stance against mediation between victims and abusers, claiming that it represented radical feminist opinions and eliminated the presumption of innocence in a trial. The opponents to the law presented it to the Nicaraguan Supreme Court declaring it unconstitutional and demanded reforms, which were approved by the Nicaraguan parliament on September 20.

Violence against women in Nicaragua is a widespread problem considering the 19 percent increase in domestic abuse cases reported from January to August 2012 than in the same period in 2011. Many women’s groups associate this increase with the incorrect implementation of the law, but no clear indication has been found proving these claims. Nonetheless, Law 779 was a success for women’s groups in the Central American nation, as it was the first in the country’s history to criminalize violent behavior towards women including femicide, as well as guaranteeing emotional, physical, and sexual integrity of women. The law additionally demands that more state resources are used to tackle the problem of violence towards women and implementing violence prevention programs.

When the mediation reforms were approved, the major step in equality backfired on women’s groups who had spent decades lobbying for Law 779 to pass in the first place. More specifically, with the new reforms, it is now legal for there to be mediation for crimes with the abusers’ sentences being less than five years. These sorts of sentences are given for domestic cases such as physical injuries, psychological violence, sexual assault at home or at work. Crimes that result in sentences longer than five years and could not be considered for mediation would be ones where the victim suffered from serious physical wounds or femicide.

Nicaragua’s society is extremely patriarchal, with most women relying economically on their husbands or boyfriends; women are given the responsibility of holding the family unit together. This pressure on Nicaraguan women often leads them to agree to mediation even though it puts their lives at risk. However, according to the head of the Supreme Court, mediation will be voluntary when reforms are implemented, and it can be requested or denied by either party. Women will not be obligated to participate in the mediation process. Despite this however, the newly approved reforms are still a setback to progress for Nicaragua’s women and put them in a vulnerable and emotional position wherein they could face their attackers, leading to shame and terror.

Despite women’s groups’ protests over the reforms, the rest of the population believes that it is more effective that the government strengthens the existing processes in place and implements Law 779 in a just way to protect women from domestic violence.

– Elisha-Kim Desmangles
Feature Writer

Sources: The Guardian, IPS, AJWS

Unite to End Violence Against Women UN Program Evo Morales Bolivia
Last week, Bolivian president Evo Morales and a variety of governmental and UN officials met on the Roosevelt Island Soccer Field in New York City to campaign for the UN-based initiative UNiTE to End Violence Against Women. The campaign, which has high international aims, focuses specifically on Latin America and the Caribbean, two regions with abnormally high instances of gender-based crime.

The match had a diverse group of players, influential both on the football field and in the broader context of development: the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Nicola Poposki, and two female members of parliament from Norway, Karin Andersen and Lene Vågslid. Diplomats from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Liechtenstein, Austria, and the U.S. rallied on the other side.

In conversation with the UN, Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP director for Latin America, Heraldo Muñoz, explained: “Football is a global passion and a great way to win hearts and minds, conveying the message that ‘real men don’t hit’.”

The larger program beyond the pitch deals mainly with governmental reform. Too often, cases of gender-based violence are overlooked. Instead, the UN urges governments to lead by example, exhibiting solely intolerance in regards to such violence and oppression. Criminals must be punished in order to protect the women and girls of the world.

UN global statistics reveal the urgency of this situation: globally, around 50 percent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16. Furthermore, statistics show that problematic regions must be addressed. Over half of the countries with the highest rates of female murder are within Latin America and the Caribbean. Tellingly, such statistics exhibit the fatal consequences of tolerance.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon created the “UNiTE to End Violence Against Women” in 2008. The initiative addresses all governments, demanding the implementation of strict laws, action strategies, and overall, a larger systematic address of sexual violence by 2015.

Ultimately, football serves as a common ground between us all. Yet, so should our women and girls—for their futures are ours.

– Anna Purcell

Sources: United Nations, Global Times
Photo: Flickr

Sunglasses John Kerry
This past Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry announced a new U.S. initiative aimed at preventing and responding to gender-based violence in humanitarian emergencies worldwide. Known as “Safe from Start,” the $10 million will be funded to allow the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other humanitarian organizations to hire specialized staff, start new programs, and “develop innovative methods” to protect women and girls at the onset of emergencies around the world.

“In the face of conflict and disaster, we should strive to protect women and girls from sexual assault and other violence,” Kerry emphasized in a press release. The statement also mentions that the U.S. will coordinate with other donors and stakeholders to develop a framework for action and accountability to ensure that efforts to address gender-based violence are routinely prioritized as a life-saving interference, along with other vital humanitarian help.

The initiative builds on the framework established by the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, and the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally. The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will be responsible for the initiative.

Most conflict-ridden countries such as Syria, Egypt, or the Democratic Republic of Congo are reporting high rates of rape. Seen as a tool to terrorize villages and break the will of the opposition, rape has been routinely incorporated as a weapon of war during conflicts. According to Save the Children, up to 80 percent of war rape victims are under 18, while an Oxfam report states that rape is the “most extensive form of violence” women and girls are currently facing in Syria.

Although the press release mentions women and girls as the primary victims of gender-based violence, the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally states that this type of aggression can also be directed towards men and boys, as well as sexual and gender minorities.

According to this document, gender-based violence is “violence directed at an individual based on his or her biological sex, gender identity, or perceived adherence to socially defined norms of masculinity and femininity.” It includes physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, as well as threats, coercion, arbitrary loss of liberty, and economic hardship.

– Nayomi Chibana
Feature Writer

Sources: U.S. Department of State, CNS News, Huffington Post
Photo: Cloture Club

As the 2015 target date for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)  rapidly approaches, there is much discussion on the post-2015 MDGs. A coalition of charities and campaign groups plans to ask the leaders at this year’s UN General Assembly to take a holistic approach to ending global poverty.

This holistic approach targets those most vulnerable demographics: women and girls. The coalition argues that by empowering women and girls, the true root causes of poverty will be addressed.

There is concern that the current MDG goal of gender equality will be replaced with a watered-down goal addressing broader inequality concerns. However, the coalition believes that gender equality was a neglected MDG goal the first time around and, therefore, needs to be an area of focus in the post-2015 goals.

Countries with greater gender equality in education and employment have stronger economic growth and human development. Therefore, empowering women and girls creates a stronger country and world. Empowering women and girls will help end world poverty.

Empowering women and girls starts with their physical health. By providing accessible and affordable healthcare, core concerns such as maternal health, gender equality, and sexual and reproductive health and rights will be addressed. Currently, the main concerns include the lack of healthcare and sexual and reproductive health services for women, as well as the lack of medical care for their children.

Many women and girls die from inadequate healthcare. By addressing these vital needs, it is estimated that 79,000 maternal deaths, most of which occur in sub-Saharan Africa, would be prevented.

Recognizing that mothers sustain and create life, the coalition is urging the Member States to include a goal that focuses explicitly  on gender and equality. According to Tewodros Melesse, the Director General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), a world with gender equality is a “world of justice, choice, and well being for all.”

Working on the MDGs has provided the world with many lessons. Perhaps the most valuable of these is that progress is likely to be uneven – and at times reversed – if gender equality is not viewed and addressed as a vital goal.

– Caressa Kruth

Sources: News Afrique Informations, The Guardian
Photo: A Nation of Moms

The United Nations’ recent session on forced marriage raised an issue many attendees called “unacceptable.” Arranged marriages are a cultural tradition in many countries; however, they often lead to “child brides” dropping out of school at the orders of their husbands and pregnancy complications for young girls.

Pregnancy complications commonly occur for young women under the age of 15. The risk of dying during childbirth is five times more likely to happen than for women who are in their 20s. Women under the age of 18 are also at a higher risk of dying during the first year of their child’s life. Some may be surprised to learn that childbirth, not disease, is the leading cause of death for girls between 15 and 18 years old.

Poverty plays a crucial role in forced marriages as well. A study by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s office found that impoverished girls are two times more likely to marry before they are 18. Because the arranged marriages of young girls is a tradition in some countries, Baird says he has been discouraged from publicly criticizing it at times. This line of thinking, Baird explains, has to stop.

Among the riveting anecdotes about girls being forced into wedding older men included the story of how one young girl witnessed the forced marriage of one of her friends to a 40-year-old man who forbade her from attending school. Another friend of the girl was married at a young age and beaten by her husband after giving birth to a girl instead of a boy.

Baird is working with international organizations to make forced marriages for girls a thing of the past. He is adamant that “in a generation, we can end this practice.”
Baird and his supporters are combining their efforts with those of the United Nations and its global goals for 2015, which include universal access to contraceptives as well as improved newborn and maternal health.

– Mary Penn

Sources: CBC News, Too Young To Wed
Photo: Living With Libby

Unicef Putting Last First Child Millenium Goals
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), putting the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach children first will speed up progress towards achieving the targets set by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Since their adoption in 2000, the MDGs have achieved huge results for children around the world, and have helped guide global and national priorities. Thanks to these global and national efforts, mortality rates for children under five have been halved, fewer people live in poverty, less women die in childbirth, and 2.1 billion people gained access to clean drinking water between 1990 and 2011.

Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, said that while these successes should be celebrated, the focus should now be on the millions of children who are still left behind. “It is unacceptable that poverty, gender, and geographic location so often determine whether a child will love or die, be able to go to school or grow up uneducated,” said Lake.

Nearly 6.6 million children under the age of five died in 2012, or roughly 18,000 children per day. Most of these deaths were due to preventable causes. If this current trend holds, the fourth MDG will not be met until 2028. This means that an additional 35 million children will die between 2015 and 2028.

The UNICEF-supported global movement—”Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed”—is mobilizing political commitment and civil society partners in an effort to turn the promise of the MDGs into action.

Worldwide, 99 million children under five years old are underweight, and 162 million children are stunted or chronically malnourished. UNICEF plays a major role in the Scaling-Up Nutrition (SUN) movement that works with numerous countries in developing national plans to tackle malnutrition.

More children than ever are attending primary school, but, in 2011, a reported 57 million children of primary school age were not in school. More than half of these children lived in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, fewer girls are enrolled in secondary school than boys.

UNICEF plays an additional major role in the Global Partnership for Education. This partnership consists of 60 developing countries, donor governments, international organizations, and additional partners. The partnership develops and implements sound education practices, as well as mobilizes resources to enroll more children in school.

“Children are not only the inheritors of the planet. They will actively shape its future,” said Lake. The survival, health, education, and well-being of children are, indeed, essential for sustainable development and prosperity.

– Scarlet Shelton

Sources: UNICEF, The World Bank, Child Info, World Food Programme
Photo: Marquetteducator