CHILD LABOR COALITION PRESS RELEASE: Child Labor Coalition decries shooting of 14-year-old education activist Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan


For immediate release: October 12, 2012
Contact: Reid Maki, (202) 207-2820, reidm@nclnet.org

Washington, DC—The 28 members of the Child Labor Coalition (CLC) today expressed their condemnation of the shooting attack on 14-year-old education activist Malala Yousafzai by Taliban forces on October 9 in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. Malala dared to be an advocate for the education of girls, a stance that made her a target for Taliban extremists who shot her twice—in the head and the neck. She clung to life as the world celebrated the first United Nations International Day of the Girl Child on October 11.

“The idea that the Taliban would viciously attack a teenage girl to threaten other girls seeking an education is deplorable,” said American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson, a CLC co-chair. “The AFT condemns this cowardly act in the strongest of terms and applauds the people of Pakistan for rising up to proclaim that such barbarity is unacceptable in their country or anywhere in the world. The right to education is fundamental, and we stand with Malala and all those around the world who are working with us to make sure all children have equal access to high-quality public education.”

Malala’s advocacy began at age 11, when she blogged about Taliban atrocities in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. She soon began blogging about the closing of schools for girls, which were a result of ultraconservative views toward women’s roles in Pakistani society. According to published reports, she felt forced to hide her school books and feared for her life, knowing that her advocacy might make her a target of the Taliban. At age 11 she said, “All I want is an education. And I am afraid of no one.”

“Education is power, especially for girls. Malala knows this and has used her voice to advocate for others,” said Lily Eskelsen, Vice President of the National Education Association, a CLC member. “The Taliban underestimated Malala from the beginning, but her power has already been unleashed. They cannot call it back. An educated girl becomes an informed woman, able to make the best choices for her own well-being and that of her family; generations are impacted. As we mark the International Day of the Girl Child, Malala speaks to all of us to take action on our responsibility to see that girls’ human rights are respected.”

“Malala’s heroism and advocacy for girls inspires us all,” said CLC Co-Chair Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League. “Access to education is one of the keys to reducing child labor—that’s what Malala is fighting for and that’s why her work has been so important. According to the International Labor Organization’s latest statistics, the number of girls in child labor worldwide fell between 2004 and 2008 from 103 million to 88 million. We need to keep that progress up. We need to keep Malala’s vision alive and provide girls with unfettered access to education.”

According to the Global Campaign for Education, 53 percent of out-of-school youth worldwide are girls, and millions of girls face discrimination, sexual and physical abuse, neglect, exploitation, and violence. Access to education is a common source of inequality. In Pakistan, the World Bank estimates that only 57 percent of girls and women can read and write, and in rural areas, only 22 percent of girls have completed primary-level schooling, compared with 47 percent of boys.

Child labor is another barrier to education. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs, nearly one in three Pakistani children aged 5-14 are not in school, Pakistan’s primary school completion rate is 67.1 percent, and the country is making “no advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.”

The Child Labor Coalition applauds Malala Yousafzai for her courage in trying to improve the lives of girls in Pakistan through increasing access to education.

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About the Child Labor Coalition

The Child Labor Coalition is comprised of 28 organizations, representing consumers, labor unions, educators, human rights and labor rights groups, child advocacy groups, and religious and women’s groups. It was established in 1989, and is co-chaired by the National Consumers League and the American Federation of Teachers. Its mission is to protect working youth and to promote legislation, programs, and initiatives to end child labor exploitation in the United States and abroad. For more information, please call CLC Coordinator Reid Maki at (202) 207-2820 [reidm@nclnet.org]. A complete list of CLC members can be found at our web site: www.stopchildlabor.org .

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