On October 9th, 2012, two teenage girls woke up in the morning and prepared to go to school. One went to a normal day at a normal school in an American suburb without incident. She might've been a tad bit late to French; perhaps fell asleep in AP Psychology (don't tell). She made it home okay, like she's always done.
One girl went to school in anything but a normal way, although the challenges she faced are faced by all too many of her fellow schoolgirls. Threats hanging over her head. The realization that for her actions, for this crime--this simple desire for an education--there were people who said she should die. And when she boarded a schoolbus to go back home, she didn't just "make it home okay"--because October 9th was the day a Taliban assassin shot fifteen-year-old Malala Yousufzai.
Malala is an icon for the struggle which seems so foreign to girls like me, comfortable in our "normal" while girls our age must fight and sacrifice and face seemingly insurmountable odds to change theirs. The truth is, there are comparisons as dissonant as the story of my day on October 9th vs. Malala's to be found everywhere. I get to go to school without fear. No impending marriage threatens my education or well-being. I've always been told that I have autonomy over my body.
And this "normal" of mine is foreign to millions of girls.
These comparisons should drive us to action.
The issues of educational attainment for girls and women, and women's health are essential parts of the moral imperative of our time to protect women's rights as human rights. I see a world in 2030 where solutions for the problems we face have been reached. We can implement solutions at both an organizational scale and a grassroots level.
The dedication Malala showed to the issue of girls' access to education has to be sustained through strong governmental support of educational equity as well as cultural changes, in making sure families view education for girls as a valuable investment. Creating role models and mentors for young women in their communities is important.
Women's health improvement must involve education and outreach. Control over your body and family planning decisions shouldn't just be first-world rights; women everywhere need to know about their options so they can make informed choices. Greater education creates a better environment for the promotion of maternal health.
Already, many organizations have taken on raising awareness and implementing solutions. It gives me hope in the vision of a world in 2030 where my "normal"--education, safety, choice--is every girl's normal. It may seem ambitious; but the realities faced by so many girls in the status quo today are simply morally repugnant. We can only stand on the right side of history by moving in the direction of progress. And I wonder, looking forward to 2030, when I will be a 32-year-old woman: if I have a daughter, will she look at her "normal," and another girl's "normal," somewhere else in the world--and find them equal?
Every year Bill Gates shares his annual letter, highlighting the work being done to help the world's poorest people. This year, he wants to hear from you. What goals do you think we should set to help improve the world for the next generation? What's your hope for 2030?
When the world comes together to solve big problems, amazing results are possible. See which of your hopes made it into Bill's 2013 Annual Letter. http://annualletter.gatesfoundation.org/