By Annika Erickson-Pearson
“I say ‘Malala,’ you say ‘Day!’” shouted Chernor Bah, UN Youth Advocacy Group Chairman, at a room packed with young advocates, activists, and campaigners from around the globe. We eagerly chanted back at him: “’Malala. Day!”
You might anticipate this type of energy from any youth gathering, but I’m pretty sure this type of shouting doesn’t happen often in the United Nations Trusteeship Chamber. And yet, there we were, over 500 of us from 80 countries, ensuring our presence in the building wouldn’t go unnoticed.
Friday, July 12 marked the 16th birthday of Malala Yousafzai, the courageous young woman from Pakistan that the Taliban tried to eliminate last October 9. Malala came to the United Nations to give her first public speech on Friday and explained: “They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices.”
This special event represented those thousands of voices; instead of diplomats and dignitaries from each nation, the seats were filled by youth. It was an honor to take part in the youth assembly and meet my bold brothers and sisters from thousands of miles away who, too, are fighting to give every child the quality education they deserve. The day began with remarks from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who lauded Malala, reminding us, “She is calling on us to keep our promises, invest in young people, and put education first.”
We heard from the UN Special Envoy for Education Gordon Brown, the President of the UN General Assembly Vuk Jeremić, and the UN Special Envoy for Youth Ahmad Alhendawi. What stood out to me most was the fact that these thought leaders were gathering for us, a room full of young people, to support what we support and to encourage us to run with these passions and keep fighting. The chamber was filled with press and the day was covered on every major news network, both in the US and abroad. For our cause. For our fight. For the rights of children around the world.
Malala Day inspired me, amazed me, and filled me up with the courage and resolve I need to keep working toward our goals. Malala proclaimed, “We call upon all governments to ensure free, compulsory education all over the world for every child.
We call upon all the governments to fight against terrorism and violence. To protect children from brutality and harm. We call upon the developed nations to support the expansion of education opportunities for girls in the developing world.”
And in that proclamation, there is something each one of us can do.
We can come forward and demand our governments no longer turn a blind eye to the 57 million children globally who are denied a basic education, or the millions of other children who, while in school, cannot read and are desperate for better quality learning. We can take our own education seriously and develop our skills as leaders, in our families, communities, and beyond. We can come together to take a stand for the children in our communities and ensure they are getting the most of their education. You can do that. I plan to do that. Will you step up and help?
To read about the experiences of the UK GCE Send My Friend ambassadors, click HERE.