Change. Global leaders galvanize nations in pursuit of it, advocates demand that policymakers facilitate it, and I’d suggest that we all strive to be a part of it. As the saying goes, change is “easier said than done.” But young people don’t seem to see it that way. Not only are young people calling for social, political and economic change, but they are being the change.
Today’s generation of young people is the largest the world has ever seen. In fact, over half the world’s population is under the age of 30. To some, this number may seem daunting – but the way I see it, that’s more than 3.5 billion young people representing 3.5 billion opportunities for change.
We know that when you invest in young people – particularly in girls – the returns are tremendous. Girls with access to education and health care, including youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health information and services, are more likely to marry later and, once mothers, are more likely to send their children to school and provide them with health care.
And the impact flows beyond families and communities: By enrolling just 10% more girls in school, a country can increase its gross domestic product by approximately 3%. In short, when you invest in girls there are ripple effects throughout society – and everybody wins.
A year and two days ago today, a teenage girl was riding the school bus in northern Pakistan. Suddenly, a Taliban gunman got on the bus. He shot her. She almost died.