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Over the past few months, Malala Yousafzi has received international media attention. This past week, that attention has significantly increased.  Her story involves her standing up for her rights, getting shot in the face by the Taliban, enduring months of surgery, and coming out of her ordeal stronger and more inspiring than ever. Despite the pain and suffering she has endured, Yousafzi speaks of peace, love, and equality for everyone.

At 16, Malala Yousafzi has stood up to the Taliban, written a book, spoken at the United Nations, and been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. She is also quite possibly the only person to ever render The Daily Show’s John Stewart speechless.

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-october-8-2013/malala-yousafzai

Pakistanis and people around the world have rallied around her, her story, and her call for education and for women’s rights. To war-and-poverty-stricken Pakistan, Yousafzi is a symbol of resistance, courage, and hope.  To advocates of women’s rights, children’s rights, and education, as well as to countries like Pakistan, she is that same symbol.

While Yousafzi speaks primarily of education, her story begets questions about women, their rights, their power, and their impact. In too many parts of the world, women have minimal to no rights, but studies have shown that women’s potential for impact is great, especially economically. The key to women reaching their impact and benefiting their country is rights–and rights begin with education.

In The Economics and Politics of Women’s Rights, authors Matthias Doepke, Michele Tertilt, and Alessandra Voena, discuss the relationship between women’s rights and economics.  Throughout this piece, they provide analysis on research from the OECD Gender, Institutions, and Development Data Base. They analyze a large variety of factors, including but not limited to women’s access to land, early marriage, inheritance discrimination, and violence against women. The overall form of measurement is the “Gender Empowerment Measure,” which measures the difference in opportunities available to men versus opportunities available to women. Through their research, they found a correlation between women’s rights and stronger economies. Countries with more women’s rights enjoy higher GDP per capita. In contrast, countries that offer women little rights are some of the poorest in the world. This occurs because, with rights and education, women are able to join the workforce, earn money, and invest. Women’s involvement in the workforce spurs the economy and allows the society to prosper.

Goldman Sachs has also researched the impact women can have on the economy and argued that education is the initial key. According to their research, educating women creates economical benefits initially and long term, as well as in their household and for society. Educated women are more likely to hold jobs with higher wages, bringing resources into the home. They are also more likely to raise educated children, who later in life also hold jobs with higher wages. Additionally, 90% of all revenue that women create is reinvested into society through educating their children and health care programs. Goldman Sachs studies have also shown that female education is linked to higher productivity, returns to investment, and agricultural yields. Thus, educating women is not just a for-now benefit, but an investment in the future.

Dina Powell of Goldman Sachs states, “[When women are working], GDP grows, so the economy is stronger; society is more prosperous and healthier and more educated. The truth is, when women are economically empowered, all of society benefits.”

As a country with an economy below the regional and world averages, Pakistan could greatly benefit from utilizing its resource of women. Pakistan’s economy is consistently behind other countries in the region on economic reform and it is unstable due to the corruption and violence in the area. Educating more women and granting them more rights could very well be exactly what the country needs to spur economic growth.

Women have exponential impact on society. They are educators, health reformers, and investors. However, in order to impact society, women must be granted the ability to do so. They must have the rights, the opportunity, and, most importantly, the education. With that, nothing can stop them–not even the Taliban. Just ask Malala Youzafsi.

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