Educational inequity and discrimination in schools may be different in the United States from how they manifest in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. Female American students can reasonably expect to be safe from government violence as they ride the bus home. Politicians, policemen, and principals are unlikely to make overt public statements, threatening girls with bodily harm if they show up to class. Nonetheless, sex discrimination is engrained in American schools and universities. Female students are discouraged from participating in class discussions when teachers more often call on their male counterparts. Young women are channeled into vocational training programs, eventually being situated in lower-paying positions than their male peers. Recently, on 10/11/12, the world celebrated the International Day of the Girl, a UN Sanctioned campaign to highlight opportunities for female children worldwide. In light of both this celebration and Malala’s tragic shooting last Tuesday, we should make conscious daily efforts to advance women’s rights to education. Raise your hand in class; and if you are not invited to speak, keep raising your hand in class. Study whatever interests you. Male students do not own math and science.Be mindful of the way the media portrays women in power; and if you do not find enough women in public office, become a woman in public office. We have the right to speak up.
Malala Yousufzai of Pakistan’s Swat Valley has effectively become a patron saint for the advancement of women’s rights to education. A week ago today, Taliban gunmen shot Malala in the face and neck for speaking publicly against the Taliban’s suppression of girls’ education. In a 2011 interview with CNN, Malala explained why she continued to speak in defiance, despite the danger she faced: “I have the right of education. I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up.”