Global Women’s Institute to Develop ‘I am Malala’ Curriculum

The institute is the educational partner of the Malala Fund.

October 21, 2013

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GW students and faculty members shout, “I am Malala” and raise their hands in support of Malala Yousafzai. The young Pakistani activist was shot by the Taliban while speaking out for girls' right to education and has written a memoir about her life.

Sixteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai has become a symbol of peace and hope for millions of people across the world.

The youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize nominee has campaigned since the age of 11 for the right of girls to have an education and was shot in the head by the Taliban for making her voice heard. Ms. Yousafzai chronicles the journey of her crusade in her recently released memoir, “I Am Malala.”

The George Washington University Global Women’s Institute (GWI) is hoping her story will not only deepen students’ understanding of women’s rights issues, but that it will also inspire them to become activists themselves.

As the educational partner of the Malala Funda nonprofit that works to ensure that girls around the world have access to education — GWI-affiliated faculty will work with the publisher Little, Brown and Company in developing curriculum tools to accompany the memoir.

“Malala’s courageous campaign for girls’ education is an inspiration to all,” said GWI Director Mary Ellsberg. “We are honored to serve as the Malala Fund’s educational partner, and to work with Little, Brown and Company to develop a curriculum that will not only educate students but spark the very activism Malala stands for.”

The university-level curriculum will be available to faculty members and students around the world at no cost beginning in mid-2014. The tools will focus on themes such as the importance of a woman’s voice, how education empowers women, global feminism and political extremism.

A cornerstone of the curriculum will be to take the knowledge learned in the classroom and “make it real,” said Michele Clark, an adjunct professor in international affairs who is among those developing the tools. The curriculum will encourage students to take action through service learning and advocacy.

“How do you start thinking about transforming a culture so that the education of women becomes a norm?” she said. “We’d like to encourage college students and eventually high school students to get involved, to facilitate dialogues among various groups and to influence public opinion.”

The curriculum tools will be created by an interdisciplinary group of GW faculty from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, the Elliott School of International Affairs, the Graduate School of Education and Human Development and the University Writing Program.

And the tools will be able to be incorporated into a variety of academic disciplines and courses.

“There are so many different ways to approach it because it’s the story of one woman’s life recounted against the backdrop of a complex, gripping and all-consuming narrative,” Ms. Clark said.

The curriculum tools will offer suggestions for group and individual assignments and activities, and will include a companion website with multimedia resources, such as interviews and video clips that illustrate cultural and political challenges.

Shiza Shahid, co-founder and CEO of the Malala Fund, said she hopes the curriculum will lead to important development work.

“We are so heartened by the support Malala has received, and we hope her book and this curriculum will give students the knowledge and resources to join Malala in her fight,” she said.