Something very exciting happened on July 7, 2017: Malala Yousafzai posted her first tweet.
The 19-year-old Pakistani activist gained global notoriety after surviving a gunshot wound to the head at the hands of the Taliban in 2012. Her crime: daring to get an education as a girl.
Yousafzai just graduated from high school in the U.K. and used her first tweets to express the mixed emotions that accompanied the occasion.
“Graduating from secondary school is bittersweet for me,” she wrote. “I’m excited about my future, but I know that millions of girls around the world are out of school and may never get the opportunity to complete their education.”
Yousafzai’s first tweets were posted alongside a short essay published on her nonprofit, the Malala Fund.
In the essay, Yousafzai expanded on the tweets, detailing the sorrow she’d felt years ago, after the Taliban took over her community in Pakistan’s Swat Valley and forbade girls to attend school.
After the violent altercation that nearly took her life, Yousafzai’s family left the country — and she was terrified at the thought of never sitting in a classroom again.
“When my family fled our home, I worried I was leaving behind more than books and pens ,” she wrote. “ I feared I was leaving behind my dreams for the future.”
Yousafzai’s Malala Fund has focused on changing public policies around the world and challenging cultural expectations that discourage — or even outright ban — girls from getting an education. It’s a cause worth fighting for.
More than 130 million girls are out of school around the world, according to the organization — an alarming statistic that reflects how girls are disproportionately affected by inequality in education.
Even in regions where girls may be allowed to attend class throughout their adolescent and teen years, societal pressures and responsibilities — like having to care for younger siblings, find a job to support the family, or marry young to uphold cultural norms — prevent them from finishing school.
Yousafzai echoed this struggle in her essay, saying her attempt to access education certainly wasn’t a rare exception.
“I have often said that I share my story not because it is unique — but because it is not,” she wrote.
Not everyone has a global platform to advocate for girls’ education like Yousafzai — who’s already amassed more than 180,000 followers on Twitter.
But we all have a voice.
Spread the word and support efforts and organizations like the Malala Fund, Care, the U.N.’s Girl Up, the Global Fund for Women, and others helping educate and empower girls and women around the globe.
“I was able to continue my education when the situation in my hometown got better, but I will never forget how it felt to have my future taken away from me,” Yousafzai concluded in her essay. “I promise to keep fighting until the day that every girl can put on her uniform, pack up her books, and walk to school without fear.”