Strong female role models are incredibly important for girls growing up. They represent an ideal, someone girls find inspirational, someone they could emulate or someone who will make a difference to their lives.
But for girls sometimes finding role models is hard. Too often they are fed images of celebrity women on the verge of a nervous breakdown, in and out of rehab, stumbling along the streets – broken, bedraggled or bewildered. Women who are famous for whom they are going out with rather than their own natural abilities and talents.
But every now and again a woman, or in this instance a girl, comes along that can make our pupils feel empowered, make them feel that they too can make a difference. An individual who stands up for injustice, an individual who is incredibly brave and lives every day by the values she espouses.
This weekend this individual, Malala Yousafzai, was fittingly awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for her work in campaigning for girls’ rights to be educated. Her history is well known, shot by the Taliban at the age of 15 for her views on girls’ education, airlifted to England to be operated on and to continue her fight for girls’ education. As she wrote “We realise the importance of our voices only when we are silenced. I was shot on a Tuesday at lunchtime, one bullet, one gunshot heard around the world.”
On accepting the award she said it is “for all those children who are voiceless and whose voices who need to be heard”. Malala is an inspiration, her humility, her courage and her drive to make change breathes faith into all of us that making a difference to people’s lives is possible. She is an extraordinary role model and you have a sense that she will achieve her dream of education for every girl. I know that in realising her dream she will inspire many others to follow and I hope that in my life time all girls will have equal access to education. I am in no doubt that if this is achieved the world will be a better place in which to live.