WASHINGTON—The 30 members of the Child Labor Coalition (CLC) applaud the courage and commitment of education activist Malala Yousafzai who spoke to hundreds of young people gathered from over 80 nations for a Youth Session at the United Nations today. Malala, who just turned 16, was tragically shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan last fall because she dared to attend school and argued for the right of other Pakistani girls to do the same.
“We are all inspired by Malala’s amazing courage,” said Sally Greenberg, the co-chair of the CLC and the executive director of the National Consumers League. “Our coalition knows all too well that when children are not allowed to attend school, they often end up in work that is dangerous or damaging to their future development. Around the world, an estimated 61 million children are denied access to an education. At considerable risk, Malala is speaking out on behalf of those children.”
“Malala is a powerful reminder that education is not only the right of every child, but the greatest hope we have for a more just, prosperous, and peaceful world,” said Dr. Lorretta Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and a co-chair of the CLC. “We join her in calling for increasing educational opportunities for all children and encourage everyone to join the 4 million people who have signed a worldwide petition in support of universal access to education.”
Despite the catastrophic injuries suffered when she was attacked, Malala’s voice rang loud and clear at the UN and her message was firm: all children deserve an education. “Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons,” Malala said. “One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution.”
“[The Taliban] thought that the bullet would silence us, but they failed. Out of the silence came thousands of voices,” Malala added. “Nothing has changed in my life except this: weakness, fear, and hopelessness died, strength, fervor, and courage was born.”
Malala stated that the Taliban are “blasting schools every day” because “they are afraid of change, afraid of the equality that we will bring into our society.” She urged her audience to “wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism.”
During the speech, Malala made a specific connection to child labor: “In India, innocent and poor children are victims of child labor. Many schools have been destroyed in Nigeria. People in Afghanistan have been affected by the hurdles of extremism for decades. Young girls have to do domestic child labor and are forced to get married at an early age.”
The CLC welcomes this courageous young voice in the struggle against poverty, child labor, and barriers to education.
Malala’s speech may be viewed by clicking here.