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Malala reminds us to invest in women, education

Malala Yousafzai is a 16-year old Pakistani girl who loves school. She just won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought for her courageous pursuit of an education, despite threats from the Taliban, and is now the youngest person to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

After the Taliban shot her in the head last year, Yousafzai has taken her crusade for education to the world stage.

Across the world, indicators of a good quality of life are remarkably lower for women than men. Women are far more likely to face discrimination, poverty and even death globally, but particularly in certain regions of the world.

These facts are astounding. This inequality is preventable, and policy initiatives that aim to invest in women are ultimately some of the most powerful and effective. Women are a wealth of human capital with ideas, hopes, dreams and opportunities to change this life for the better.

As Bill Gates said to the World Economic Forum in 2007, “If you're not fully utilizing half the talent in the country” — women — “you're not going to get too close to the top."

There is a reason the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals focused on gender equality, reducing maternal mortality and access to education: These are real and pressing issues that can make not only a difference for individuals but for communities, as well. Not providing equal and fair opportunities for women isn’t only unjust; it’s bad policy.

Yousafzai teaches us that educated women are powerful and can revolutionize the world. She is a symbol of the transformative effects of education. She is a fully fleshed-out person with her own opinions and view of the world. Just check out her Oct. 8 interview with Jon Stewart.

Most importantly, we can see that educating females is more than a women’s rights issue; it’s a human rights and a development issue.

Investing in females pays out enormously.

Policy is all about creating strategies and plans conducive to growth and success in a country and its citizens.

Educating women and improving their overall status can have an incredible impact. The World Bank did a study in 2011 showing that investing in girls and closing the employment gap could create a GDP increase of 1.2 percent in a single year.

Integrating women into a developing nation’s workforce can spur economic growth while also creating even more potential in the future. Education helps to allow girls to marry later and have fewer children, putting less strain on them and reducing dangers associated with childbirth.

Women, when given the chance to have gainful employment, can contribute meaningfully and successfully to their family and communities.

This phenomenon is called The Girl Effect, and it’s not just a coincidence. Women’s rights and growth go hand in hand.

The world needs more people like Malala — extraordinary women empowered by education to create change in their communities.

Reach the columnist at or follow her on Twitter @beccasimpson

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