In our constantly changing world, we are seeing more and more everyday people taking a stance against poverty and becoming human rights activists. These individuals have demonstrated that with the right qualities and the commitment to bringing about change, anyone can make a difference.

Be a dreamer.

When Kakenya Ntaiya, founder of the Kakenya Center for Excellence in Kenya, was growing up she dreamed of being a teacher. However, the social and cultural norms of the Maasai population in Kenya expected young girls like Ntaiya to be married at a young age and learn skills to be a wife, not to go to school.

In a Massai right of passage, young girls suffer genital mutilation and are usually married not long after this ceremony. Ntaiya made a deal with her father that would allow her to finish high school after the ceremony, and she ultimately received a college scholarship in the United States and earned a doctorate in education.

Ntaiya made her childhood dream a reality when she opened the Kakenya Center for Excellence in 2009, the first primary school in her village. Since then, she has helped over 150 girls receive a proper education without having to endure what she did.

Persevere against all odds.

In light of Nelson Mandela’s death in December 2013, we are reminded of the legacy he left behind to inspire future human rights activists and leaders. Mandela spent over 25 years in prison after being convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government because of his anti-apartheid efforts. During his time in prison, Mandela was unable to attend the funerals of his mother and his eldest son.

While in prison, Mandela secretly began negotiations with the current apartheid state, specifically with South African President F.W. de Klerk. Mandela was released in 1990 and worked even harder to change conditions in South Africa. In 1994, Mandela became the nation’s first black president.

In his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela wrote, “It would be very hard, if not impossible for one man alone to resist. But the authorities’ greatest mistake was to keep us together, for together our determination was reinforced.” Despite all he had gone through, Mandela never gave up on his beliefs and the perseverance that he shared with all anti-apartheid activists.

When tragedy strikes, come back strong.

After being shot in the head by the Taliban in October 2012, then-15 year old Malala Yousafzai not only recovered, but became more committed to fighting for the right of education for young girls. Yousafzai was targeted because of her strong voice, but the injury she suffered was extremely serious and required a risky surgery. After a medically induced coma and a stay in intensive care, she made an incredible recovery.

Nine months after being shot, she spoke at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The day also marked her 16th birthday. In her speech she said, “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”

Since then, Yousafzai has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Price and has been more determined than ever. In response to a question about what the Taliban members who shot her thought they achieved, she said, “I think they may be regretting that they shot Malala. Now she is heard in every corner of the world.”

– Julie Guacci

Sources: CNN, BBC News, The Wall Street Journal
Photo: Amandine Van Ray

Malala Yousafzai has become one of the world’s most prominent advocates for children’s education, following an assassination attempt against her from the Taliban. This young girl, who almost died standing up for her right to learn, who lived to tell the tale of being shot in the head for simply going to school, has become a symbol for the dignity of an education.

At least three million children have been displaced as a result of the current conflict in Syria, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates. On average, these children are likely to spend 10 years in refugee camps or in temporary shelters. The right to receive an education or to be educated upon reaching adulthood and to experience childhood with dignity and hope for the future cannot wait.

Malala is making efforts to ensure that the masses of Syrian children are afforded these basic rights. On February 18, the 16-year-old girl visited the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan in an effort to raise money for children’s education in the camp.

“When I think of these children, I can feel what they would be feeling now and what they are suffering through. So that’s why I think that it’s a responsibility to protect these children,” Malala said.

Currently, 50,000 students are educated in only three schools. Despite the tremendous difficulties facing refugee camps, such as food, shelter and adequate hygiene, Malala expresses the importance of education for young children coming from violent circumstances. Whereas aggression and brutality can negatively influence a child’s behavior, education and school environments help teach children to work in groups and solve problems in a healthy manner.

In Lebanon, some schools are going on double shift in efforts to equip Syrian refugee children with a proper education. The double shifts allow more lessons for more students without requiring any new facilities. Within weeks, these institutions have shown results that children have started to recover from their traumatic experiences.

Malala Yousafzai has taught the world that an education is something worth fighting for. Home or no home, all children deserve to learn.

– Jaclyn Stutz

Sources: CNN, New York Daily News, NPR
Photo: Should-Know

It has been said, to fight poverty start with educating women. Sounds simplistic, but by no means can it be argued as a holistic or the only solution to global poverty. What has been proven without a shadow of a doubt, however, is that from the shadows of our patriarchic cultural past, women still do not enjoy full equality.

In the U.S. This manifests in lower pay and lower rates of CEOs, high executives or public officials, a travesty for sure. Yet in many countries around the world this inequity in rights manifests in much more horrific ways. One does not need to look any further than Malala Yousafzai, and her recently well publicized campaign. What’s disturbing is that what happened to her is a daily occurrence around the world.

So again, while it may not be a silver bullet, attacking poverty by starting with women is an argument that is well founded and arguably proved by social science academia as an extremely effective way to start.

Coupled with the longstanding stance that education is the way out of poverty — i.e. an ability to be self-reliant — to have the knowledge and understanding to progress yourself into a better situation. And, perhaps even more importantly, is the aspect of early childhood education as it is a crucial role of programming the roots of individuals.

Therefore, it could be naturally deduced that women’s education, or even more specifically girls’ education, is one of the areas where more focus and understanding should be applied.

With research institutions and think tanks like OXFAM and UNICEF providing information, and micro-finance or hands on organizations like or NURU international, everyone with an internet access and 2 bucks to spare can make a huge impact on moving this planet towards a better more equitable place for all.

Here are some organizations working directly in this arena that you can look into for more answers, or to become an active participant in the solutions:

1 – The Borgen Project
2 – Nuru International
3 –
4 –
7 – Global Fund for Women

Tyler Shafsky

Sources: Huffington Post, CNN
Photo: Huffington Post

ninja turtles
The presence of the Pakistani Taliban not only proves to be terrorizing for Pakistan’s religious community and the public in general, but also poses a strong international threat.

The Pakistani Taliban aims to create an Islamic state governed by sharia law as well as opining for the withdrawal of a military presence along the borders of Afghanistan—the region housing the group’s headquarters.

The Pakistani military’s occupation of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) began in 2002.

For his part in the peace making process, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ran on a ticket of reconciliation with the Pakistani offshoot of the Taliban.

Among its list of atrocities, the Tehreeke-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) executed ten foreigners, assaulted and consequently freed 248 prisoners.

Recent headlines report two suicide bombers that attacked Peshawar where over 600 Christians were idling at All Saints Church. The end result was 85 killed and numerous others injured. The group responsible is a part of the TTP network, Jundullah.

The Pakistani Taliban were the same group that unabashedly shot 14 year old Malala Yousufzai for her strong vocal support of women’s education in Pakistan. Malala was subsequently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Sharif may be biting off more than he can chew as the TTP is unable to be brought into the fold due to their insistence of an all-encompassing Islamic state as well as the group’s fragmented structure resulting in numerous offshoots with differing desires such as Jundullah.

The Pakistani Taliban also rejects the Pakistani democratic process and the nation’s alliance with Western nations. Though not directly linked to Al Qaeda or Afghanistan’s Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban do share mutual goals.

Recent headlines report that Mullah Fazlullah, the individual responsible for Malala’s assassination, is now the succeeding leader to the TTP after his predecessor, Hakeemullah Mehsud, was killed by a U.S. drone attack.

Alongside being responsible for numerous attacks within Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mehsud was responsible for the 2011 failed attack in Times Square, New York.

Fazlullah was initially a popular radio broadcaster that promoted Islamic reform. As a prime figure in the Pakistani Taliban, Fazlullah has ordered numerous hits on the public.

With the skyrocketing fame of Malala’s survival also came the rise of Fazlullah’s. Using his pirate radio, Fazlullah promoted his agenda, changing his initial popularity to that of among the Taliban fold.

Recognition of a young, stalwart voice breeds with it the acknowledgment of its oppressor, in this case, Fazlullah and his Taliban, who are here to stay.

– Miles Abadilla

Sources: CNN, CNN, The Daily Beast, The Daily Beast, The Economist

roosevelt Quotes from World Leaders on Human Rights
1. David Cameron, UK Prime Minister
“If we are going to try to get across to the poorest people in the world that we care about their plight and we want them to join one world with the rest of us, we have got to make promises and keep promises.”

2. Irene Khan, former Secretary-General of Amnesty International
“Poverty is not only about income poverty, it is about the deprivation of economic and social rights, insecurity, discrimination, exclusion and powerlessness. That is why human rights must not be ignored but given even greater prominence in times of economic crisis.”

3. Navanethem Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

“Discrimination and multiple deprivations of human rights are also frequently part of the problem, sentencing entire populations to poverty… It is surely a matter of outrage that over half a million women die annually from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. This is nearly half the annual global death toll, and arguably, a direct reflection of the disempowerment of women in social, economic and political life.”

4. Jesse Jackson, American Statesman and Civil Rights Activist
“The great responsibility that we have today is to put the poor and the near poor back on front of the American agenda.”

5. Pope Francis “A way has to be found to enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of the earth, and not simply to close the gap between the affluent and those who must be satisfied with the crumbs falling from the table, but above all to satisfy the demands of justice, fairness and respect for every human being.”

6. Dalai Lama XIV “No matter what part of the world we come from, we are all basically the same human beings. We all seek happiness and try to avoid suffering. We have the same basic human needs and concerns. All of us human beings want freedom and the right to determine our own destiny as individuals and as peoples. That is human nature.”

7. Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani Human Rights Activist
“I don’t know why people have divided the whole world into two groups, west and east. Education is neither eastern nor western. Education is education and it’s the right of every human being.”

8. Pranab Mukherjee, President of India 
“There is no humiliation more abusive than hunger.”

9. Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations
“Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.”

10. Barack Obama, President of the United States
“This is the moment when we must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably. Trade has been a cornerstone of our growth and global development. But we will not be able to sustain this growth if it favors the few, and not the many.”

11. Desmond Tutu, Noble Peace Prize Laureate
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

12. Vladimir Putin, President of Russia
“History proves that all dictatorships, all authoritarian forms of government are transient. Only democratic systems are not transient. Whatever the shortcomings, mankind has not devised anything superior.”

13. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian President
“The world is in need of an encompassing and of course, just and humane order in the light of which the rights of all are preserved and peace and security are safeguarded.”

14. Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, Cuban Foreign Minister
“This problem will knock on the doors of all of us, whether through uncontrolled and unmanageable migration flows, by means of diseases and epidemics, as a result of the conflicts generated by poverty and hunger, or as a result of events which are today unforeseeable.”

15. Warren Buffett, American Investor and Philanthropist
“Someone is sitting in the shade today, because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

Tyson Watkins

Sources: Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights: Quotes, Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights: Statement by Navenethem Pillay, Catholics Confront Global Poverty, Dalai Lama, Think Exist, Brainy Quote

Photo: Vintage 3D

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


Malala Yousafzai was interviewed on The Daily Show with John Stewart. Malala become a public figure after being shot by the Taliban.


1. Malala Yousafzai works tirelessly as a young advocate for female education, despite being shot in the head last year by the Taliban for these very same efforts. She—in her bravery and brilliance– exemplifies the struggle for girls’ education everywhere.

2. Hillary Rodham Clinton, having served as the first lady and Secretary of State, is now a partner with her husband and daughter at the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Within the organization, she has committed herself to improving access to female education and empowering women worldwide.

3. Richard Robbins directed Girl Rising, the extremely popular new documentary that tells the stories of nine struggling girls in the developing world. The film, which has met with great success, espouses the urgent global need for equal access to education.

4. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn published “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” in 2010, a compelling journalistic account of the developing world, and more specifically, of its disadvantaged women. The book, which spans the entire globe and a diverse set of lifestyles, seems to somehow convey a singular edict: in order to progess—particularly in the developing world– we must provide all women access to an adequate education.

5. Lawrence Chickering has worked for more than thirty years in order to improve the conditions of girls in the developing world, particularly in India, a country where 40% of women are not educated beyond the fifth grade level. His NGO, Educate Girls Globally, has significantly improved female enrollment, retention, and performance in India’s government schools, giving girls access to a variety of transformative resources.

– Anna Purcell

Sources: CBS News, Huffington Post, The Guardian

Perhaps no adolescent in the world is regarded with more widespread veneration than sixteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai, the well-known Pakistani advocate for female education who was shot by the Taliban for her convictions in October 2012. Seriously injured from the shooting, Malala was immediately flown to the United Kingdom to undergo a series of emergency operations. Miraculously, she recovered.

Just over a year later, Malala is back in school. However, her life is far from blithe—the urgency for access to education for all girls is ever present. Thus, Malala continues to ceaselessly advocate for girl’s rights, disseminating her message on the global stage.

In order to honor her prodigious efforts in the name of girls everywhere, the United Nations hosted Malala Day on July 12, 2013, her sixteenth birthday. The event—which evolved to be known as “Malala Day”—included a speech by Malala herself, pushing for female education everywhere.

Standing amongst the most powerful leaders in the world, Malala spoke confidently. She beseeched courage from the world’s women: “Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution.”

She then addressed the personal, demonstrating the unwavering nature of her principles: “The terrorists thought that they would change my aims and stop my ambitions but nothing changed in my life, except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born.”

In a world where 115 schools were attacked last year in Mali, 165 in Yemen, 321 in occupied Palestine, and 167 in Afghanistan, Malala’s struggle has never been more pressing.

Anna Purcell

Sources: AlJazeera, The Guardian
Photo: National Secular Society

Malala Yousafzai’s speech at the UN called for “free, compulsory education all over the world for every child.” Her speech was a reminder that back in her home country of Pakistan several million children are unable to attend school, exploited for their labor, and abused.

The most recent annual State of Pakistan’s Children report—published by the Islamabad-based NGO Society for the Protect and Rights of the Child (SPARC)—found that, out of 120 countries, Pakistan has the second largest number of children not attending school. 5.1 million Pakistani children ages 5 through 9 are not attending an educational institution. A large portion of these children end up in the workplace.

Child labor is a widely accepted social norm in Pakistan for both boys and girls. These children are denied their rights to education, protection, health, and development, and are also highly susceptible to abuse and exploitation. Figures on the exact number of child laborers in Pakistan are somewhat unreliable, with estimates ranging from 3.3 million to 12 million.

According to an estimate from The International Labor Organization, one quarter of these children are involved in the worst forms of child labor—slavery, commercial sexual exploitation, the use of children for committing crimes, and work that is harmful to the health and safety of children. The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics 2010-11 Labor Force Survey estimates the number of child workers to be around 4.29% of the country’s children ages 10 through 14.

The only major law relating to child labor is the Employment of Children Act 1991, which regulates child labor for children under 14 years of age and prohibits it in specific occupations. However, the law is rarely enforced, especially in the area of domestic labor.

Earlier this month an incident was reported in which a wealthy employer had beaten her 13-year-old servant to death after he dropped a jug. The incident was widely covered by the media and confirmed by the police in the area. Such stories are not unusual. According to SahibaIrfan Khan, the program officer at SPARC, thousands of children working as domestic servants are deprived of their basic right to education and are often subjected to abuse and violence.

Other data compiled by the organization shows at least 18 confirmed cases of severe torture and abuse of child domestic laborers. 13 of these children died as a direct result of the violence inflicted upon them at the hands of their employers.

Scarlet Shelton

Sources: IRINPakistan Bureau of Statistics
Photo: Dawn