This Sunday, July 12, is Malala Yousafzai‘s 18th birthday. It is also “Malala Day,” a designation granted by the United Nations in July 2013 — nine months after Malala survived a brutal assault by members of the Taliban and went on to advocate for the right of girls to education in northwest Pakistan.
Just last month, eight of the 10 men directly involved in the attack were acquitted during a closed-room trial.
The warning message sent by Malala’s attackers — and the court that acquitted them — is reproduced in the experience of too many women and girls around the world: women should not be educated, women have less right than men to public spaces, and women put their own lives at risk when they attempt to break down the social barriers that affect their physical and mental health and well-being.
When we wrote Health Actions for Women, we included true, inspirational stories from women and girls around the world, including Malala Yousafzai.
Alongside her story is one from Luz, a Peruvian midwife who refused to accept another needless death during childbirth due to health clinic discrimination against indigenous women. Another story recounts the experience of women factory workers in Sri Lanka, who convinced the factory owners to provide bus service and put an end to the assaults they repeatedly faced during their daily commute.
Health Actions for Women is a testament to the courageous, and sometimes outrageous, actions that women and girls around the world take to address the sexism, discrimination, and violence against women that are underlying causes of poor health.
“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced,” Malala wrote in her book, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.
On Malala Day, let’s support women and girls at home and around the world in their struggles to mobilize for change.