Dena Mekawi is a current Publishing graduate student at Pace University, and also holds the position of Youth Representative for the Women’s National Book Association. This article was included in the WNBA’s October Newsletter.
One of the most memorable conferences I attended as a Youth Representative was on August 18, 2014, with special guest Malala Yousafzai. Secretary general of the United Nations, Bank Ki-moon, and education advocate and co-founder of the Malala Fund, Malala Yousafzai joined the audience for an interactive conversation about the Millennium Development Goals. Questions were asked from young people about how we can all play a part to achieve the MDGs, from boosting education, eliminating poverty and hunger, empowering women and girls to protect the environment, improving maternal health, and combating infectious diseases. Amy Robach moderated the discussion, news anchor with ABC’s Good Morning America (GMA).
Malala spoke out again a year after her first speech at the United Nations, where she shared her near death experience being shot by the Taliban. This year she is back sharing her story on how she never gave up on her beliefs on education, and she wishes every child the same opportunity. First way to do this is to advocate to our community, she demands that we need to make sure every child is going to school, also to do work on the ground and overseas. She discusses how Malala Fund is slowly making a difference worldwide. Malala says that education has brought change to the community; she encourages everyone to change the concept of bravery. Before Malala was abducted she had a passion for learning and was campaigning for education rights. Malala says, “If a girl isn’t getting an education, I can see her future getting married at the age of 13- 14, and that’s all her life, she would never realize that yes she’s a human being and has an identity, and she should be accepted in society, and she should be treated with equal rights. She would never know these things without education.” Malala explains that from her experiences, that a child doesn’t want anything but just a pen and a book.
Amy Robach asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon how the crisis worldwide would impact the MDG goals. Secretary General explains how we are seeing many dedicated committed young leaders like Malala and like everyone else. Secretary General says, “One may think I’m just a young girl or young boy, I don’t have any power, but each one of you can make a difference. You are the rear voices; we must walk with the young people.” Malala states, “The strength of a woman does not depend on her physical strength but rather on her skills and education.” Malala explains how we need to believe in the power of our voices, and her message is to highlight the issues and address them.
As a student living in New York, I do feel lucky to have access to education. However after witnessing Malala’s struggle and hearing her fight for educational rights, allowed me to really reflect on all the things we might take for granted. We need to translate our blessings into advocacy for youth and women worldwide that are waking up everyday praying for quality education, clean water, ending of violence against women, gender equality and every other human rights that they should be living by. We need to take control of our society and use our voices to represent millions globally, we need to use social media to start movements and implement change day by day. I do see a brighter future; because of the strong young leaders that are taking control I hope to see more girls like Malala fighting for what they believe.
As the current UN DPI/NGO Youth Representative for the Women’s National Book Association, not only did I have the privilege to attend this moving and inspirational discussion, I was given the opportunity to take a picture with Malala, and shared a moment with her that was memorable, and one that I will truly cherish forever. This young girl is living proof that every single person with a powerful story, and with a strong belief can make a difference. We need to stand up for what we believe, and keep fighting towards equality and women’s rights.