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Malala Yousafzai Attack Shows the Need to Keep Pushing for Women's Education

October 21, 2012

Letter to the Editor, Baltimore Sun

The tragic assassination attempt in Pakistan against 14-year-old student Malala Yousafzai, merely because she was a female who spoke out for women's education, is a disturbing reminder that there are still places in our world where an educated woman is considered a threat. More disturbing still is that it occurred in a nation which 24 years ago elected Benazir Bhutto as the first female prime minister of a Muslim country. It is a potent reminder that progress for women does not always proceed linearly.

As the president of women-focused university and as provincial leader of its sponsoring organization, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who have been dedicated to educating women globally for over 175 years, we see this tragedy as affirmation of our mission to educate women leaders. Our university was founded on the radical notion that educating women can transform the world. The threat that Malala represents to some proves that our work is far from finished.

Campuses such as ours welcome women students from all over the world, including the Muslim world, where they can learn in a safe, respectful environment. Malala's forceful voice exhorts us to be vigilant in protecting the rights we have won, and fervent in eliminating the barriers to opportunity that persist. Whether it is in the Third World or the First, the essential work of educating women for leadership must never be considered accomplished, because sadly, the force of ignorance is never vanquished completely.

James F. Conneely and Sr. Kathleen Cornell, Baltimore

The writers are president of Notre Dame of Maryland University and provincial leader of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.