Oct. 11 International Day of the Girl
The Pakistani girl has been an advocate for the need for girls' education since she was 11. The Taliban have a strong presence in the Swat Valley region of the country where Yousufzai lives.
Yousufzai survived the attack, but remains in critical condition a day after doctors removed a bullet from her neck.
While the teen recovers in hospital, people around the world are celebrating the first annual International Day of the Girl Oct. 11.
This includes an awareness event held by Laurentian University students in the university's student centre.
They held a baked goods and lemonade sale and a clothing swap in support of Plan Canada's Because I am a Girl initiative, which advocates for girls' rights, as well as garners support for the non-profit organization's programs for girls.
Deputy Mayor Joscelyne Landry-Altmann also read a proclamation of the awareness day on behalf of the city.
Yousufzai's story adds poignancy to the International Day of the Girl, said Jennifer Johnson, chair of Laurentian's women's studies department.
While it's not surprising that Yousufzai, who lives in a volatile area, has experienced violence, what makes her story different is that she's an activist for girls' rights, she said.
“When you get into that kind of situation where girls and women are so curtailed that to speak out invites violence, we know that's a situation that has to change,” Johnson said.
“There are feminists in Pakistan and within Afghanistan who are working to change that. What we're hoping to do from here is shed a light on that so people can understand it better and can take a stand in supporting women's organizations in that part of the world.”
Tanya Maier, a first-year Laurentian women's studies student who helped to organize the event, said stories such as Yousufzai's make her wonder why girls have to be the “underdogs” of the world.
“I think that the reason why this happens is because people aren't educated,” she said.
“We're not educated about what to do to make a difference, that is why we need to talk about girls' education. Because if we're not educated as to why girls are being oppressed, as to why there's violence against women, we can't change it.”
Canadian girls' lives aren't perfect either, she said. Maier said she remembers very well what it was like to be a girl. She said she often felt pigeonholed because of her appearance.
“The boys only treated me like I was a girl they would want to date or they would want to have an interest in because I was pretty, not because I was a human being, not because I could be their friend or play on sports teams with them,” she said.
“I was just the pretty girl who couldn't do something because I was labelled as a pretty girl. That's how I lived my life for most of my life.”
At the same time, 25-year-old Maier said her mother was a strong role model, who worked as a corrections officer and was the first firefighter in the town she came from, and inspired her to become a feminist.
She hopes to be the same kind of role model to her daughter, Adelle, who will turn two in November. That's part of the reason she decided to attend university.
“Knowledge is power,” Maier said. “In order for me to make a powerful statement towards making the world a better place for women and girls, I need to educate myself.”
For more information about Because I am a Girl, visit becauseiamagirl.ca.
The plight of girls
-In the poorest countries of the world, 50 per cent of girls do not attend secondary school.
-Girls are three times more likely to suffer from malnutrition than boys.
-Pregnancy is the leading cause of death for girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide.
-Globally, girls represent two thirds of new HIV infections among youth.
-Each year, roughly two million girls aged five to 15 are trafficked, sold or coerced into the sex trade.
-An estimated 100 million girls are “missing” because of gender-based abortion or infanticide.
-For every development dollar spent, girls receive less than two cents.
Source: Because I am a Girl