Every Day is Malala Day
Rosemary McCarney with Plan International
Allen & Unwin, 2014
pbk, 32pp., RRP $A12.99
Who does not recognise the name and know the story of Malala Yousafzai, the 15 year-old Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban on October 9, 2012 for speaking out publicly about the right of girls to have an education? Flown to England for surgery, remarkably she survived and has gone on to campaign for the education of girls, becoming, in 2014, the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Just last week (October 28, 2014) she was awarded the World Children’s Prize and she has already announced that she will donate her $50 000 prize money to the reconstruction of UN schools bombarded by Israel in the recent Gaza conflict. When I gave this book to a group of Year 3 and 4 students in a small rural school in New South Wales, even they knew who Malala is and clamoured to be the one to read and review this book. No wonder!
Written as an open-ended letter to Malala, it tells of the inspiration she provides girls around the world to speak out for their right to go to school – the book is dedicated to the 65 million girls who are currently in neither primary nor secondary school. “In many countries, bullets are not the way to silence girls. Early marriage…poverty…discrimination…violence…they all play a part.” As powerful as the words are, the accompanying photos are even more so because each one shows a girl from somewhere around the world … Peru, Niger, El Salvador, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Nepal, each page a different country!
The book was masterminded and written by Rosemary McCarney who leads the Plan International Canada team where she helped create the very important ‘Because I am a Girl’ campaign () and worked to have an International Day of the Girl declared by the United Nations to celebrate the lives of girls and draw attention to the particular challenges they face. The back story to Every Day is Malala Day is almost as powerful as the book itself. July 12, 2013, the day which was Malala’s 16th birthday. was declared Malala Day by the United Nations and 500 young people took over the UN. They produced a short film depicting girls from all over the world writing to Malala to tell her how important she was to them as a symbol of hope in their lives. From this film come the photographs that accompany the beautiful text.
On that first Malala Day, Malala addressed 1000 delegates to the UN Youth Assembly. Parts of that speech (which went viral on social media) are included at the end of the book, concluding with “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education First.”
Every child needs to know who this dedicated, inspirational young woman is. Every child needs to know the value of their education and how lucky they are to have access to it. Every child needs to know that every day should be Malala Day when children know they can raise their voices and be heard. “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.” Let’s start with the children in our care.