World leaders need to deliver on their pledges to institute universal primary education — especially for girls — if the world wants to empower the next generation, campaigner Sarah Brown said in a speech at the launch of the autumn issue of Index on Censorship magazine on Tuesday.
“The women who lead, read,” Brown said. “A girl with an education is the most terrifying force in the world.”
The campaigner argued passionately for education being a key, vital factor in advancement of women and girls around the world. Brown cited statistics that underlined her point: Educated girls grow into women who are more likely to educate their own children, have them vaccinated and have jobs that support a better financial life for their families.
“Why is the most terrifying thing for the Taliban a girl with a book?” she asked when talking about the role of Malala Yousafzai, the teenager who was targeted for campaigning for girls’ education. Brown is co-founder of A World At School, the campaigning education organisation that helped convene Malala Day at the United Nations this summer.
Speaking at the Lilian Baylis Technology School in London, where she also met with students, Brown followed up the speech with a question and answer session, chaired by Helen Lewis, deputy editor of New Statesman magazine.
“I don’t understand why there is so much anger at women who speak out,” Brown said when Lewis asked about Twitter trolls.
Referencing the vicious Twitter attacks on Caroline Criado-Perez, she remarked: “It’s clear that the public square does not offer a safe space for Britain’s women.”
But she also spoke on the positive sides of online speech, saying Twitter can be a “space to describe yourself as you want to be described.”
Brown conceded there is still a lot of work to be done to reach universal education. With two years left to reach the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education, millions of children around the world still don’t have access to it.
Brown said it was appropriate for her to speak at the launch of the latest issue of Index on Censorship magazine, which includes a special report on ignored, suppressed and censored voices.