Gordon Brown: Girls' empowerment movement is a global game-changer
Girls, not adults, are forming a liberation movement – demanding their rights, especially to education. They've organized child-marriage-free zones, demonstrations to support Malala Yousafzai, petitions against child labor, and a growing movement exposing child trafficking.
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Of course, many of the rights that girls are fighting for are those that have been taken for granted, at least for a century, in most countries. We have moved from an old world where, if you were a girl, your rights were what others decreed, your status what others ascribed to you, and if your mother was poor, so too would you always be.Skip to next paragraph
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But today’s movement is not just for emancipation – a 20th-century demand for freedom from injustices – but for empowerment, a 21st-century demand for freedom to make the most of your talents. It is a liberation movement more akin to the Arab Spring.
And it is, potentially, a game changer. The movement challenges world leaders to recognize that, despite the UN Millennium Development Goal promise to ensure universal education for girls by the end of 2015, progress has stalled. As Martin Luther King Jr. said in his time about the “promissory note” on black rights, the check has been returned and marked “insufficient funds.”
Next week, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, will meet with countries that are off-track to discuss the legislation, incentives, reforms – and money – needed to speed up the enrollment of girls in schools.
I will share with them the testimony of the two friends of Malala Yousafzai – Kainat Riaz and Shazia Ramzan – who were also shot on the Swat Valley school bus that fateful day last October. Both want to be doctors. Both are still in Pakistan, protected in their homes by security guards, escorted to school by police. I have talked twice to the girls, and, as they repeated to a foreign TV crew only a few weeks ago, they are being persecuted but will never again be cowed.
Four years ago, Kainat says, girls were hiding their books under their burqas. Now, she says, the Taliban “can’t stop us from going to school. I want to study. I am not afraid.” Now, Shazia says, “We are strong.”