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Leadership is not about title, position, or age. No one reminds us of that more than Malala Yousafzai.

Long before the October 2012 attempted assassination of Malala shocked the world, the teenage blogger from Swat Valley, Pakistan, was an activist. She wrote under a pen name about life under the Taliban, sharing the struggles she endured as she and her family advocated for girls’ education.

At 15, Malala is a leader. She shows us that leadership is about vision. It’s about values that endure, uncompromised. It’s about sacrifice and conviction, about the resolve to take risks and persevere. In her first interview since the attempt on her life, Malala told the world, “I want every girl to be educated.” Her message is clear: girls’ education leads to empowerment.

What I’ve seen in my work around the world, and what research proves to be true, is that denying a girl her education means denying her chance to a future. Education leads to economic growth and improved health; it reduces the risk of child marriage and increases the likelihood that girls will escape if they are threatened by physical abuse. And yet, this basic human right is denied to 61 million children of primary school age, including 32 million girls.

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