Malala Yousafzai is a brave Pakistani advocate for young women’s education and the youngest ever Nobel laureate. An attempt was made on her life when she was shot in the head by militants, and she has faced many other obstacles. Yousafzai is one among hundreds of advocates around the world fighting for women’s education. More than 63 million girls are still not enrolled in school, and fewer than 10 percent of teenage girls finish secondary school. Here are five more outstanding advocates for women’s education.
- Neelam Ibrar Chattan
Chattan has advocated for peace for young women in Pakistan since she was a teenager. She grew up in the same town as Yousafzai. While Yousafzai was being attacked, and the Taliban were taking over Pakistan, Chattan launched a campaign called Peace for a New Generation, promoting education and extracurricular activities for girls and boys. Even though she and her family face various threats, she remains fearless in helping children and young adults get the education they need.
- Michelle Obama
The former First Lady, along with her husband, former President Barack Obama, launched the Let Girls Learn organization in March 2015. The organization works with communities and leaders of third-world countries to promote girls’ education. She has also visited Africa and raised $27 million in funding for young women’s education in Liberia. Michelle Obama hopes that more people will continue fighting for young women’s education.
- Graca Machel
Machel has fought not only for young women’s education, but also against childhood marriage. She acknowledged that women and children “pay the highest prices” from war in Nigeria. Her hard work has led to the Graca Machel Trust.
- Angelique Kidjo
A Grammy-nominated West African singer and songwriter, Kidjo is also a UNICEF goodwill ambassador and the founder of the Batonga Foundation. She uses her talents as a singer and her passion for young women’s education to effect important change. She continues to work with the Batonga Foundation, supporting secondary and higher education for girls in Africa by improving school infrastructure, increasing enrollment, granting scholarships, providing financial support for families, and spreading community awareness.
- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
As the first female president in an African country, Liberian President Sirleaf has been a huge supporter of general women’s rights, including women’s right to vote and women’s right to education. She has used her power to expand the quality of education in preschool and primary education by joining the Global Partnership for Education in 2007. Despite dealing with the Ebola crisis in 2015, she worked hard to reopen schools and provide quality education for all students.
In the face of widespread and systemic adversity, millions of women around the world do not have education as a birthright. These five advocates of women’s education are advancing an agenda of equality that will empower and uplift communities forever.
– Emma Majewski