By Kristine Deveza
One of the most impressive panelists at last week’s Social Good Summit was an unassuming teenage girl from Pakistan’s Swat Valley – Malala Yousafzai.
The official website of The Social Good Summit billed the three day conference as a place where big ideas meet new media to create innovative solutions. The summit was held in New York City and Malala was just one of the many speakers, which included politicians, musicians, journalists, activists, UN officials, and company executives.
An education advocate and female rights activist from a very young age, late last year Malala gained global recognition. Taliban gunman stormed her school bus in October 2012 and shot the young activist in the head. This forced Malala and her family to leave for England to ensure Malala’s safety and access to the best medical care.
Since the assassination attempt, the 16-year-old has become a symbol of the fight for universal education for girls. Her story inspired millions around the world. The U.N. declared her birthday in July “Malala Day.” Malala was in Dublin in September to accept Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award. She was the youngest nominee for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.
Participating in the panel called “Leading Girls Forward Past Adversity,” Malala was joined by her father Ziauddin Yousafzai and Shiza Shadid. Shadid is the founder and executive director of the Malala Fund, which works towards universal education for girls.
The young activist spoke about her family, her work with the Malala Fund, and her dreams about girls’ education in Pakistan and around the world.
The day was an important event, not only because of her participation, but also because it marked Malala’s first foray into the world of social media.
Though she began blogging for the BBC in early 2009 and her personal story has gained an audience through sites such as Facebook and Twitter, the young advocate has largely been absent from social media. On this day, however, she launched her Twitter and Facebook pages and even held a “Twitter chat”. Shadid described it as “Malala returning to the Internet.”
Ultimately, the goal of the speakers was to address both present and long-term social challenges and to seek and ensure their solutions. The summit’s organizers and participants adopted the #2030NOW hash tag to underline the idea that sustainable solutions to the most pressing social problems must be discussed and launched now, not later.
Malala is one very powerful, and inspirational, 16 year-old. New media is now an important tool she can use to pioneer her future endeavors seeking universal education for girls around the world. The young activist can now lead the conversation, shape global opinion, and inspire action at the tip of her fingertips.
(The photo of Malala Yousafzai is from the United Nation’s Flickr account and is in the public domain.)