U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) have introduced the Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act, legislation designed to expand scholarship opportunities for disadvantaged young women in Pakistan.
The bill is named after Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old Pakistani girl who has been an outspoken advocate for girls’ education in Pakistan and who gained international attention for her blog documenting the Taliban’s crackdown on the rights of women and girls.
On Oct. 9, 2012, Malala was brutally attacked by Taliban gunmen while on her way home from school. She is currently recovering from near-fatal injuries.
“Malala Yousafzai bravely advocated for the education of women and girls, something that should be a basic human right,” Senator Boxer said. “This bill not only recognizes Malala’s incredible courage, but will ensure that more young women in Pakistan are able to pursue their dreams through higher education.”
“The attack on Malala Yousafzai last October reminds us of the difficult obstacles women and girls face around the world every day, including poverty, low social standing and violence, in their quest to espouse the basic freedoms enjoyed by American women,” Senator Landrieu said. “Providing an education is absolutely critical for the future of every girl and society as a whole. When women and men have equal access to educational resources, economies flourish, families strengthen and societies move forward. I am proud to introduce the Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act alongside Senator Boxer and to dedicate it to Malala and the millions of other girls and women who risk their lives every day to gain an education. By lifting up the rights of women internationally, we can strengthen women’s rights here at home, too.”
The Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act would expand and enhance an existing United States Agency for International Development (USAID) scholarship program called the Merit and Needs-Based Scholarship Program.
The program awards scholarships for university study in agriculture or business administration to economically disadvantaged young men and women from rural areas of Pakistan.
To date, of the 1,807 scholarships awarded, only 25 percent of the recipients have been women.
The Boxer-Landrieu bill would require a 30 percent increase in the number of scholarships awarded under the program for the next four years, and that these additional scholarships be awarded solely to women.
The measure would also expand the range of academic disciplines that scholarship recipients could pursue to improve graduates’ chances of obtaining meaningful employment.