Opinion

Malala – A Courageous Example For Women, Girls

The following is the address by Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Rosy Akbar at the screening of the documentary ‘He Named Me Malala’ at the University of the
03 Apr 2016 09:44
Malala – A Courageous  Example For Women, Girls
Rosy Akbar

The following is the address by Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Rosy Akbar at the screening of the documentary ‘He Named Me Malala’ at the University of the South Pacific’s Japan ICT Theatre on Friday.

Invited guests

French Embassy officials

Fiji Association of Women Graduates

Ladies and gentlemen

Bula Vinaka and Good evening to you all.

I am delighted to be here and would like to warmly thank the

Organizers and the Embassy of France for the cordial invitation to officiate and be part of this event.

No list of heroes, ladies and gentlemen, is complete without Malala Yousafzai.

I am sure, Malala needs no introduction, for she has become a champion for girls who too often find their voices- and their rights- silenced.

Through her bravery, Malala has become the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and the founder of Malala Fund which is dedicated to raise awareness to the social and economic impact of girls’ education and to empower girls to rise up and demand change.

This evening, as we all eagerly wait to watch the documentary “He named me Malala” is the life story of Malala Yousafzai; extremely inspirational, this documentary, Ladies and gentlemen, is a reminder that EDUCATION is the most powerful platform to bring change.

Malala Yousafzai’s story is a real life testimony that anyone and everyone has the courage to fight for change and inclusive freedom for people all over the world.

This ordinary teenage girl with the desire to have an adequate education became a fighter for her right to education; and an advocate for girl’s education. She is the representative of the voiceless others who have the same dreams as her to access to education. Also an extraordinary example to those who fail to realise the importance of education and more so, educating the girl child.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, “Pledge for Parity: Make it Happen,” calls for greater equality and is an opportunity to take concrete steps to help achieve gender parity more quickly – to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, access to education and reaching to their highest potential.

Ladies and gentlemen, education is one of the fundamentals to human development. I have been an educator for several years and I have attributed my success to the education mileage I had gone through. I have said in my public speaking engagements before and I reiterate today, that many social hardships like poverty can be overcome through education.

The Right to Education in Fiji’s Constitution states that “every person has the right to early childhood education, primary and secondary education and further education”.  Government is also required to take reasonable measures, using available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of these rights”.

I am happy to share that the Fijian Government has also shown great commitment towards ensuring that girls and boys have equal access to education. Our Honorable Prime Minister strongly reiterates that education remains the cornerstone of his Government’s policies and remains rigidly committed to it. As such, our Hon. PM is adamant in ensuring that “no child gets left behind”.

As such, the Ministry of Education is allocated biggest bulk of the budget amounting to $432.2 million this year (2016), an increase of $30.6 million from 2015. This shows the Fijian Government’s unprecedented commitment and investment in Fiji’s education sector.

Amongst the other modern developmental education programs; are

Free Education Programme which covers the tuition grants for pre-school, primary and secondary education.

The Bus Fare Assistance Programme has been established and currently it assists more than 111,000 children in both primary and secondary                        schools across the country.

The Government has also taken a step further in equipping students with modern gadgets to ensure they are connected to the global development through the establishment of the Digital Literacy Programme.

There are also plans to recruit 350 more teachers; of which 250 will be for primary schools and 100 for secondary schools. This is to improve the current teacher student ratio.

The Fijian Government has also invested in the development of technical colleges for both girls and boys to meet the skill and labor demand of investors. It will continue to provide funding support for the Tertiary Education Loans Scheme (TELS), the National Toppers Scholarship Scheme.

An analysis after the 2011 census also confirms that the overall tertiary graduation level of women is being higher at a 54 to 46 percentage ratio than men.

Ladies and gentlemen, in that context, you would agree, that Education is the key to breakthrough poverty cycles; when a girl is educated, she is able to stand up for herself, make informed decisions and has the freedom to live an independent  life, in doing so she becomes the powerful agent of change in her society.

And while Fiji perseveres in its effort to ensure that every child regardless of their gender, status, location or their background has access to education; the onus is on parents and families to ensure that they reachout and make maximum use of these opportunities available to educate their children.

The onus also lies with each individual to have the passion and drive to acquire the skills needed to achieve their goals. Not only to excel academically but also aspire to become good leaders, going beyond your challenges, to reach to greater heights in your life. Malala is a living proof that leadership come in all genders, nationalities and age. This young woman has shown that with courage, anyone with any age can be a history maker; Malala’s story honours the strength and resilience of all women around the globe.

As the Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation I am committed to promoting gender equality in national education laws, policies and plans and in addressing gender-based violence in educational settings.

Ladies and gentlemen, as we watch this film, let’s all be reminded that as we rebuild our families, communities and our nation from the aftermath of TC Winston, let’s not forget our young girls who in the best of their ability continue to search for knowledge through temporary learning centres.

Getting our children out of temporary structures and tents and back into proper classrooms is one of the Government’s top priorities. As such last week, “An Adopt a School Programme” was announced by our Honourable Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama; the programme aims to help rebuild Fijian schools that have been devastated by Cyclone Winston.

As individual, families, communities, this is an opportunity for us to stand up for those who need our assistance, let’s give them our support so that every individual girl and boy goes to school. And just as well said by Malala in one of her famous quotes, “Knowledge is Power, One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” This is the time, when we as one nation, one people need to raise to the challenge, to support “An Adopt a School Programme” to help the children of Fiji resume their normal lives, to progress their education in proper facilities.”

And I urge all of you to spread the message of the importance of the Adopt a School programme in assisting Fiji to get back on its feet.

Ladies and gentlemen, I take this opportunity to commend the Embassy of France and the Fiji Association of Women Graduates for their great courage and achievements in promoting women’s education in Fiji. I also thank you all for your ongoing support towards education and empowerment of women; the plan to deliver and assist the education of one woman is a move towards closing the gap of gender inequalities.

In that context, I am also pleased to know that Fiji Association of Women Graduates since its inception in 2004 has successfully supported eight (8) young women who studied in the fields of Automotive and Electrical Engineering, Plumbing, Sheet Metal, Civil Engineering, and Tertiary teaching in Agricultural Science. A current scholarship recipient is also studying Aircraft Engineering (Mechanical) at Fiji National University.

In Fiji, we may never have a girl go through what Malala did; however, I firmly believe that with courage and determination  money raised from tonight’s event will go towards a worthy cause, the Fiji Association of Women Graduates Scholarship Fund which supports young women studying in non-traditional fields.

With those words ladies and gentlemen, as we will see the story of the great Malala, it is my sincere hope that this movie will inspire each one of us to challenge ourselves, to realise the strength we have and that each one of us can be a leader within our own spheres of influence and commit to take pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity.

I close with the belief that Malala resides in each one of us and I sincerely hope that we will awaken the brave Malala within us to drive the positive change and inspire the world.

It is my honour to pledge our Ministry’s contribution of $5000 towards this worthy cause.

Ladies and gentlemen, with these words, I wish you all a pleasant evening.

Vinaka, Danyawad and Thank You.

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