Today is International Youth Day – and it’s been exactly one month since Malala Day at the United Nations.
Below are reflections from youth delegates of GBC-Education member companies who were inspired and impacted by their experience with influential youth from around the world who also believe we should continue towards building A World at School.
Read these three incredible stories from the next generation of business leaders.
A revolutionary history-making event: Malala Day
My name is Claire Gapare, a student at Sussex Coast College Hastings in the United Kingdom currently studying for the International Baccalaureate diploma. I have a strong conviction about education for every child and I represented Econet wireless, a member company of the Global Business Coalition for Education, at the Malala day UN Youth Assembly.
Malala Day was one of the history-making events of all time and it marked the birth of a new era. It has set the youth on a path of great courage, hope and determination setting within them a blazing fire to unite and advocate for the girl-child education with endless passion. This day was an awakening call to the world. It is imperative that the world understands that the most important investment any country can make in its youth is providing education.
Representing Econet Wireless was a great honour and pride. Having interacted with various young leaders at the conference, they were astounded by the huge number of over 41,000 children that Econet is sponsoring at different educational levels in different parts of the world like Zimbabwe, USA, UK, South Africa just to mention but a few. As Gordon Brown said, ‘we need people who will bridge the gap between these children and what they have the potential to be’, and Econet wireless has been the epitome of that person.
Celebrating Malala Day sent a strong message of the importance of education and the empowerment of girls. Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world and no child should have to die for going to school or teachers for adding value to lives of young people. It is time be a voice for the voiceless as Malala highlighted in her revolutionary speech: “Today I speak, not for myself but for those whose voices have not been heard.”
For me, being part of Malala Day was not only about representing Econet Wireless, but also about making my voice being heard in order to help a child who is in the most undeveloped parts of the world and whose only hope of a mere future is crushing stones in the scorching heat of the sun, for that girl child who is being forced to marry at only 11years and for that child who at the age of 5 is already taking care of other children whilst she is a child herself. This for me was what Malala day meant.
Children are the new future. Statistics show that not only are female-owned small businesses growing in number, but they are also outpacing male-owned firms in job creation. Women’s presence in the business cannot be ignored. However, it is unfortunate that over 34 million adolescent girls are not in school. It is fundamental that businesses investment more in girl-child education especially in the STEM field. Whether this has to be achieved by moving up the ranks of the corporate world, through entrepreneurial innovation or fighting for social justice, education of woman and girls should become a reality. Equal educational and employment opportunities should be created for all in STEM fields.
Education is not a luxury but a right. It is mandatory that every child can do more than just read and write. Malala ended her remarks with a profound statement: “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” Let us pick up our books and pens – they are our most powerful weapons.
Hi! My name is Naomi Shah, and I will be a freshman at Stanford University this fall. I was the youth representative for Intel Corporation at the UN Assembly in New York this summer.
An invitation to the UN assembly for Malala Day sat in my inbox unopened for a couple seconds as my mind raced to remember why the name “Malala” sounded so familiar. I had read something about her, but now that I was invited to see her and attend a UN assembly, so I wanted to know more. I clicked on the invitation and hurriedly read through it (reading the words, “UN Youth Assembly”, “New York”, and “Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon” were all it took to get me excited to go) before forwarding the email to my mom, closing the tab, and reading on about Malala, who has become a symbol of hope for girls seeking education in developing countries who do not have the same opportunities that many of us take for granted.
Since I was young, I had always heard people say “I hate school” and “school is boring” and it seemed like the norm, but I never understood why. I have always loved school because it gives me an opportunity to be my “little-kid” self and never outgrow asking “why” to everything I come across. This assembly was a great learning opportunity for me and a way for me to share my thoughts on why education should be a right, not a privilege, to everyone in the world. Girls, just as much as boys, should be equipped with the tools to make informed decisions and make their mark in any field, be it politics, economics, law, science, literature, etc.
It was amazing to see so many people, of all ages, different nationalities, both male and female, gather to discuss how we can make education a possibility for everyone. While this is the primary goal, something that I am very interested in personally could be a secondary, or even simultaneous, goal: increasing the number of women and girls entering STEM fields. In my opinion, this is where a lot of the innovation and cutting-edge research is happening for future generations. Girls should be a part of it. Not only will this improve new ideas in the field, because increased diversity yields better ideas generally, but this will also have huge implications for business and major corporations. In today’s globalized economy, having a 50:50 ratio of genders in engineering and other STEM fields will ensure that more ideas are being heard and that all the talent in the workforce is being harnessed towards making technology that will improve the world. Women in the workforce are necessary to reach the full potential of talent and innovation in these fields.
Due to my interest in making this happen, I have mentored youth interested in pursuing independent science research and started a camp called FACT (Females Advancing Computing and Technology) at my high school to introduce middle-school girls to tech fields. The UN’s celebration of Malala’s birthday is an international symbol that shows that no barriers, whether it’s your age, gender, or race should prevent a person from achieving their academic and career dreams.
I am Sophie Meyers, a recent graduate of Northwestern University with a BA in Business Institutions, History and Global Health. I am passionate about increasing access to educational opportunities, and I volunteer my time tutoring and mentoring low-income students in New York City with the nonprofit organizations The Go Project and iMentor. Professionally, i work as a management consultant.
On July 11th and 12th, I had the privilege of attending the Malala Day United Nations Youth Assembly as a GBC-Ed Member Company Youth Representative. I had closely followed the news of Malala Yousafzai’s attack and her recovery, and I was looking forward to the event as a chance to hear from and network with leading education advocates.
One highlight of the event was hearing Malala give her first public speech since her attack. Despite only just turning 16, Malala displayed such poise and strength and delivered an inspiring call to action to fight for peace and prosperity and to make universal education a reality. Malala’s speech energized me for the rest of the day, during which I spoke with other youth leaders about topics such as how to increase access to education and our opinions on the greatest challenges to universal education. I thought it was extremely valuable to hear the perspectives of youth representatives from all different backgrounds. For example, during one breakout session, my group debated about how to best use leaders in the community to be advocates for education, especially to support marginalized groups like women. One of the representatives strongly believed that this advocacy should solely come from political leaders, whereas a representative from a different country thought that it should mostly come from celebrities and other cultural figures. This debate reminded me that even the best potential solutions must take into account the specific culture of the country they are aiming to help, just as I try to take into account a company’s culture when consulting them on their business challenges.
Having the opportunity to get to know youth representatives from both private and nonprofit organizations reminded me of how important cross-sector partnerships are for improving access to education. During the breakout sessions, we discussed how businesses can use their core skills to help tackle social issues. For example, many technology companies are taking mobile learning solutions they have developed for their private sector clients and adapting them for other countries in order to help increase access to education. These businesses often would not be successful without the partnership of local nonprofit organizations, who can bring their deep relationships with local leaders and knowledge of the specific challenges with access to education to help the business best develop a solution.
Joining this global network of youth leaders on Malala Day provided me with the perspective and inspiration to leverage my business background to advocate for universal education by 2015.