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ASU student participates in Malala Day at UN

Ama Owusu-Darko
July 16, 2013

According to the United Nations Secretary-General, 57 million children globally do not have access to education, and millions more are not learning in school. The Secretary-General’s Global Initiative on Education aims to make education more accessible and wants youth leaders to play a major role in this effort.

Malala Yousafzai is an exemplary youth leader and advocate for universal education and girls’ rights. In October 2012, the Taliban shot her and two other girls as a result of her efforts to promote women’s education. As Malala recovered, she remained deeply committed to her cause. To commemorate Malala’s 16th birthday, the United Nations hosted a global convening of youth leaders at their headquarters in New York, on July 12, where 550 young leaders gathered for Malala’s first public speech since the shooting.

Among these leaders was Arizona State University sophomore and MasterCard Foundation Scholar Ama Owusu-Darko.

“Malala’s speech was very inspiring. She said that it is time that women start advocating for ourselves for education. She was very articulate, passionate and forgiving. She is fighting for education for every child, even the children of the Taliban,” Owusu-Darko said.

Owusu-Darko is a global health major from Ghana. As a MasterCard Foundation Scholar at ASU she receives mentoring and career advice, participates in community service, learns essential changemaking skills and studies the social, cultural, technological and environmental issues facing her country and continent. Like her fellow MasterCard Foundation Scholars, she is committed to returning to her home country to effect change. She wants to make science education in Ghana more engaging and captivating to inspire youth to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) careers. She would also like to address the education needs of street children in her home country.

Owusu-Darko reflected that Malala Day allowed her to learn about the scope of the global education crisis.

“The number of people who don’t have access to primary school and secondary school is just staggering,” she said.

A Youth Resolution was distributed at the event, calling for a Security Council resolution to be passed that recognizes the global education crisis and outlines concrete steps to address education and put every child in school by: ensuring access to quality education; addressing the situations of girls and other marginalized groups; ensuring young people learn, and are prepared for life and the workplace; increasing education funding and accountability; and guaranteeing the voice of young people a place in shaping education. Youth leaders at the event participated in skill-building sessions on topics including access to education, mobilization, online organizing and global citizenship.

“At the convening, we were addressed by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, U.N. General Assembly President Vuk Jeremić, as well as Malala Yousafzai,” she said. “I met members of the Youth Advocacy Group that drafted the Youth Resolution and representatives from various organizations that work in youth education.”

One of the most memorable moments from the convening came from Gordon Brown, U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education.

“Gordon Brown said if we are able to accomplish our education goal, our generation will be the first generation where everyone went to school and everyone had access to education. That is a really big step for the world,” Owusu-Darko said.