On Monday, 10 March, I was privileged to attend the Commonwealth Day Observance Service at Westminster Abbey, with the Friends of the British Overseas Territories.
A celebration of the entire Commonwealth family, attended by many members of the Royal Family including HM the Queen, it was an inspiring occasion.
But for me, the most powerful speaker was Malala Yousafzai – the young girl shot in the head by the Taliban as a punishment for having called for the right of girls to education. Malala addressed the congregation, calling for a world in which girls all over the world are “protected, respected and helped to flourish“. The cornerstone of her speech was to speak up for the chance for 100% of children to have access to education. It is often easy to forget, though shocking to remember, that even a basic academic education – especially for girls – in many countries, is not a right.
The second part of her call was for the empowerment of women across the Commonwealth and the wider world. Speaking on behalf of a generation of young girls, she called for increased equality, more recognition of their work – including fair pay, and access to involvement in politics and business. The striking realisation, though, is that whilst these issues are far more magnified in developing nations – indeed Malala highlighted that women only own 1% of private land in the world – there is still work to be done even here, in the UK.