Ziauddin Yousafzai: E9 Initiative Speech

"About 258 million children and youth are out of school. There are 130 million girls who don’t have access to education."

Thank you to the honourable hosts and thank you to the honourable ministers and distinguished guests for the valuable ideas and inputs on E-9 Initiative on Digital Learning Re-Image Education.

About 258 million children and youth are out of school. There are 130 million girls who don’t have access to education. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic the global and national stakeholders of education were strongly advocating for digital learning to enhance children’s access to education.

During this pandemic we further realised the power of information technology and the dire need of digital learning. While the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to the lockdown, the technology unlocked new avenues of communication and it enabled us to run the governments, businesses, public health and online education. As a Persian saying of Allama Muhammad Iqbal goes:

توشب آفریدی - چراغ آفریدم

You brought the night — I came with a light

The Malala Fund recently did a thorough research in the most marginalised communities of Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. The research shows that 20 million more secondary school-aged girls could be out of school after the crisis has passed. It is also reported that only 59% of girls compared to 62% of boys have access to learning activities while staying at home. Because girls are expected to do home chores and take care of the families. Also, digital devices are mostly owned and controlled by boys and men. And even in some conservative and patriarchal societies a smartphone becomes a social stigma if used by a girl.

I want to emphasize collaboration and collective effort for three targets to make this amazing E-9 initiative effective and successful.

1. Collaboration on scaling-up and enhancement of digital learning and skills both in terms of quality and quantity.

2. Collaboration on diminishing the divides:

  • The gender divide: girls deserve equal access to digital learning as boys.

  • The economic divide: I will request the E-9 countries to generously invest in digital education to reach to the most marginalised and poor communities of their countries. 

  • Rural and Urban divide: The children and youth of villages and mountains deserve the same facilities of internet and digital tools as the cities have.

3. Collaboration on making digital learning effective, productive and most importantly safe.


Ziauddin Yousafzai is an activist, educator and the father of Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai. As co-founder of Malala Fund, he advocates for every girl’s right to 12 years of free, safe, quality education.

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