As we celebrate Malala Day on July 14, I have both hope and heartbreak. I thought we had hit a turning point in our history, that never again would a girl face what I had to face. I did not think that, just one year after my U.N. speech, more than 200 girls would be kidnapped in Nigeria by Boko Haram simply for wanting to go to school. These girls are my sisters.
Every day women and girls face unspeakable challenges. More than 66 million girls are still out of school around the world. In Pakistan, my sisters are taken out of school and made into brides when they still are children. In India this May, two of my sisters were raped and killed, their bodies left hanging in a tree. I struggle to even understand such a devastating act of violence.
I think of the girls from Syria who not so long ago knew what it felt like to be in a classroom and now live in refugee camps while the world stands by as they become a lost generation. I think of girls who are caught in the crossfire of conflict between Gaza and Israel, heads down as they hear the terrifying sound of the air-raid siren instead of heads down in a book, as they should be.
No student, anywhere, ever, should be a target of conflict or violence. Let us all lay down our weapons.
We cannot sit on the sidelines and let this continue. Each of us is responsible. We cannot rest until we have justice and freedom for every girl and every boy. Since last Malala Day, I have been working to help my sisters, raising my voice. But we must all do more.
As written for The Washington’s Post Opinion column on July 13, 2014 by Malala Yousafzai.