#MalalaDay Throwback Thursday: We helped to give youth a voice

A World at School's Mara Sirbu reflects on Malala Day – when Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai took to the stage at the United Nations on July 12, 2013 and delivered a speech with far-reaching effects.

It’s hard to believe that almost a year ago we hosted the first-ever United Nations Youth Takeover to celebrate Malala Yousafzai’s 16th birthday alongside the UN Secretary-General, President of the UN General Assembly and UN Special Envoy for Global Education. 

We were honoured to celebrate this incredible young woman and recognise her bravery while highlighting other young and brilliant advocates from around the globe.

The two-day event involved over 500 young people from 100 countries and was organised in partnership with more than 100 organisations.

The feeling in the UN hall was electric as Malala addressed the world with her powerful words. Slowly and deliberately she told us: “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.” 

Her words have carried hope, perspective and an incredible future for her as an education advocate and fed the aspirations of a generation – that every child would see their right to go to school and learn. From the front page of the New York Times and other global media, to the top of Google and Twitter's top trending topics, the day and her message were shared around the world and millions stood up in solidarity. 

Since that day, we are constantly approached by young people who either attended the events at the UN, hosted their own event or participated online. All of them want to know how they can stay engaged and continue the work that Malala has bravely elevated to the top of the global agenda.

To support young people as they mobilise to get 58 million children into school and learning, the “civil rights issue of our generation” as UN Special Envoy for Global Eucation Gordon Brown stated, we developed two key resources and platforms.

We partnered with Plan, Global Education First Initiative Youth Advocacy Group and UNICEF to create an advocacy toolkit that can be used globally and locally to campaign for education rights.

We also rolled out the Global Youth Ambassador (GYA) programme to create community and provide tools and resources for a network of young education advocates.

This June, youth rallied again in a month of mobilsation around the world. We've been amazed to see how the Global Youth Ambassadors have been able to organise events from Nigeria to Nepal, Pakistan to Peru and everywhere in between.

Together with partners like Plan International and UNICEF, our GYAs hosted over 130 events in more than 50 countries to celebrate Day of the African Child.

On the eve of Malala's 17th birthday, I am reflective of what we've been able to do and how much work we have ahead of us.

In a few short weeks, we'll kick off the 500-Day Countdown Campaign and the clock will be ticking as we race to get all children in school and learning and honor our commitment to Millennium Development Goal 2.

I remain optimistic that together we can accelerate progress and realise Malala's dream and our dream, that all children deserve the opportunity to learn in safe schools.