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He Stands Up for Girls’ Education. He’s Been to the UN. He’s 13.

By - 10th October 2013

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October 11 is International Day of the Girl Child, declared by the United Nations as a day to recognize the challenges and power of girls. Josh Lorschy is a 13-year-old Australian boy living in Sydney. Josh was selected to be at the United Nations in New York when Malala Yousafzai delivered her petition and speech to the UN on the critical importance of educating girls. On International Day of the Girl Child, Josh shares his story with happychild.

By Josh Lorschy * Walking through the doors of the United Nations Headquarters on Malala Day in July, I felt both nervous and excited. Over 500 youth delegates from 100 countries around the world were gathering to hear Malala Yousafzai give her first speech after being shot by the Taliban less than a year ago. It felt like the beginning of a movement, and we had all gathered to stand behind her as she continued her campaign for every girl’s right to an education.

The inside of the UN Trustee Council chamber took my breath away. And when Malala stood up to make her speech, the entire room fell silent. The world’s attention was captured when she began to speak: “I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.” At the heart of her message to the world was this: “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.”

Less than a year ago, my family and I were introduced to global education non-profit, Room to Read, after being recommended the book, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, written by the charity’s founder, John Wood. As a family, we were really inspired by the cause of eliminating poverty by seeing every child become literate. We set ourselves the goal of raising funds to establish a library in Cambodia that Room to Read would build with the community, and fill with books, puzzles and trained librarians.

We held a few fundraisers, including a book swap at a primary school, a Mother’s Day stall at my secondary school and an animal attraction event at our local shopping centre.

When Room to Read invited me to join them at the United Nations Youth Assembly on Malala Day, I couldn’t believe it! I was really excited thinking about what hundreds of young people from around the world could do when we put our minds together. Financial support from my school and Qantas took me, my mum, and twin brother, Ben, to New York.

Meeting the other youth delegates, especially the other two Room to Read representatives from USA and UK was really interesting. The multicultural assembly set a buzzing environment as all the delegates exchanged ideas about what we could do to fix this social injustice.

Malala and the other leaders, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and UN envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, inspired everyone. We heard that there are 57 million children not in school, and most of them are girls living in poverty or conflict-torn areas. We heard that educating girls is one of the most powerful strategies to bring about positive change in the world. And we were asked to use our voices to bring all children to school.

So what will I do now?

When I returned home I was asked to be a Girl Rising Youth Ambassador. Girl Rising is a really powerful film about girls’ education, made in partnership with charities – including Room to Read – that are supporting gender equality in education. So far, I have set up two screenings at schools in my area and am talking to more organisations who want to show the film. In addition, I have made a two short animations about girls’ education and I’m really happy that they have been shared by Room to Read Australia, Unicef Australia and other charities to promote the cause.

Since the UN, I have talked at two more schools and both have raised funds for Room to Read. We have schools lined up to do all sorts of fundraising – pizza stall, read-a-thon, colouring-in competition, basketball training with professional players, auction  – so more children will get their opportunity to be educated. There are lots of school fundraising ideas on Room to Read’s Students Helping Students website.

My family – particularly my 72-year-old grandfather – has been working hard to organize a food and wine festival in St Ives, Sydney, in November. All profits will go towards building the library in Cambodia.

My UN experience taught me to make a difference. Malala’s amazing story shows everyone we need a change. This International Day of the Girl Child, I encourage everyone to get involved because every person, every dollar, makes a difference. At the Youth Assembly, Mr Ban Ki-moon asked us to keep speaking out for girls’ rights, keep up the pressure, and keep making a difference.

Good things happen when good people stand up and change the world.

That’s what I intend to do.

Because an educated girl will change the world.

To arrange a screening of the film, Girl Rising, please email australia@roomtoread.org
The Lorschy family fundraising page is at https://give.everydayhero.com/au/lorschy-family
*Josh Lorschy image not reproducible without permission

The video below has been put together by Josh - please take the time to watch  it.

 

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