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Malala Yousufzai, a brave 15-year-old Pakistani girl who had already achieved national prominence for her promotion of girls’ education, was targeted and shot in the head (Tribune article on Malala) by members of the Taliban in October 2012.
After being moved to the United Kingdom and undergoing several months of surgery and rehabilitation, she left the hospital in Birmingham, England, in March 2013, more committed than ever to helping every girl go to school. She agreed to the establishment of a non-profit fund in her name — The Malala Fund now supports the education and empowerment of girls in Pakistan and around the world.
“I want every boy and every girl to have access to an education,” Malala Yousufzai said when her Fund began to send poor girls to school. “I want our country—in fact, the whole world—to live in peace and security… We have started the Malala Fund for girl’s education. We want every girl to have access to an education.”
The education of girls and women is one of the paramount teachings of Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith, who proclaimed that men and women are equal in the sight of God. The Baha’i teachings assert that only the lack of education has made women unequal throughout history, and that the education of women is essential for the training of subsequent generations and for the eventual establishment of world peace:
“…the education of woman is more necessary and important than that of man, for woman is the trainer of the child from its infancy. If she be defective and imperfect herself, the child will necessarily be deficient; therefore, imperfection of woman implies a condition of imperfection in all mankind, for it is the mother who rears, nurtures and guides the growth of the child… The mothers are the first educators of mankind; if they be imperfect, alas for the condition and future of the race.
“It has been objected by some that woman is not equally capable with man and that she is deficient by creation. This is pure imagination. The difference in capability between man and woman is due entirely to opportunity and education. Heretofore woman has been denied the right and privilege of equal development. If equal opportunity be granted her, there is no doubt she would be the peer of man….”
The purpose, in brief, is this: that if woman be fully educated and granted her rights, she will attain the capacity for wonderful accomplishments and prove herself the equal of man… Both are human; both are endowed with potentialities of intelligence and embody the virtues of humanity. In all human powers and functions they are partners and coequals. At present in spheres of human activity woman does not manifest her natal prerogatives, owing to lack of education and opportunity. Without doubt education will establish her equality with men…. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, 1912 pp. 133-37.
Baha’i principles support the equality of men and women and the compulsory education of all children regardless of gender — not only because of justice, but because Baha’is firmly believe that the equality of the sexes will help lead to the abolition of war:
In past ages humanity has been defective and inefficient because it has been incomplete. War and its ravages have blighted the world; the education of woman will be a mighty step toward its abolition and ending, for she will use her whole influence against war. Woman rears the child and educates the youth to maturity. She will refuse to give her sons for sacrifice upon the field of battle. In truth, she will be the greatest factor in establishing universal peace and international arbitration. Assuredly, woman will abolish warfare among mankind. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, 1912 p. 108.
As Malala Yousufzai returns to school to further her own education, and continues to heal from her wounds, her vision also finds expression in thousands of Baha’i communities around the globe dedicated to the same goal.