Malala Day: 21st Century Diplomats

Events , Leadership

Girl Up Teen Advocate Munira Khalif performing a spoken word piece at the UN on Malala Day. (INSIDER IMAGES/Stuart Ramson for UN Foundation)

When we envision a birthday, our minds fill with memories of candle-embellished cakes, familiar faces, and lovely gifts. But July 12, the day Malala Yousafzai turned 16 years old, gave me a different perspective. Malala’s birthday was a reminder to the world that there are 57 million children, half of who are girls, who are still denied the fundamental right of education.

I celebrated Malala’s birthday with three other Girl Up Teen Advisors, one club member, and hundreds of youth at the United Nations, where Malala was the guest of honor. During her first speech since recovering from a shooting that aimed to silence her fight for education, Malala said, “Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights.”

Representing Girl Up as a Youth Delegate was an honor. What’s more, Chernor Bah, Chairman of the Education First Initiative, nominated me as one of 11 youth speakers. Going first, I performed a spoken word piece in the presence of incredible global leaders. It was the moment of a lifetime.

For the first time in history, youth delegates took over the UN General Assembly to present the first “by-youth-for-youth” resolution to achieve Millennium Development Goal 2 that ensures universal education for all. We equipped ourselves with vital tools for action. Breakout and thematic discussions including, “Access to Education,” “Making Change Happen Online,” and “Advocacy and Governance” (I served as a panelist on the last one), offered not only words of wisdom but also tangible means for change.

I took away the importance of remembering that the youth of today are not just the leaders of tomorrow. Instead, we are creating change now to ensure the goodwill of tomorrow. We are the largest generation of youth to date, so I call on our generation to dream, collaborate, raise your voice, and act on the need for quality education for all.