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An open letter to Commonwealth Heads of Government

Malala Yousafzai

Courtesy of Saumya Khandelwal for Malala Fund

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist, student, UN messenger of peace and the youngest Nobel Laureate. As co-founder of Malala Fund, she is building a world where every girl can learn and lead without fear.

Dear Commonwealth Leaders,

We have indisputable evidence that girls’ education grows economies, improves public health, reduces conflict and mitigates climate change.

  • If all girls went to school for 12 years, low- and middle-income countries could add $92 billion per year to their economies.
  • Educated girls are less likely to marry young or contract HIV — and more likely to have healthy, educated children.
  • When a country gives all its children secondary education, they cut their risk of war in half.
  • Girls’ education reduces a country’s vulnerability to natural disasters and is one of the most cost-effective strategies to tackle climate change.

Yet 130 million girls are out of school today — and two-thirds of them live in the countries you lead. Girls in India, Pakistan and Nigeria are the most likely to be denied an education. In other Commonwealth regions, child marriage and sexual violence keep girls from the classroom.

When you gather in London next month for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, I ask that you make the following commitments in your communiqué:

  • Commit to 12 years of quality education for all girls and boys by 2030, consistent with Sustainable Development Goal 4.
  • Pledge to spend a minimum of 20% of your national budget on education by 2020.
  • Phase out tuition fees for all 12 years of school, targeting the poorest girls first.

In my travels to many of your countries, I have met girls struggling to go to school. Each girl knows that education is her only path to a better future. Together we are fighting for what has been promised, but not delivered for far too long: 12 years of safe, free, quality education for every girl.

This Commonwealth Day, I ask you to join us. Invest in the peace and prosperity of your country by investing in girls.

Yours sincerely,

Malala Yousafzai

Rani Kanaujia, 17, India

Maryam Rehman and Nivaal Rehman, 16, Canada

Peace Ayo, 15, Nigeria

Scarlett Pye, 17, Australia

Noorena Shams, 20, Pakistan

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