Thinking of Malala Yousafzai on the International Day of the Girl

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Today is the International Day of the Girl.

The empowerment of girls holds the key to development and security for families, communities and societies worldwide.

Girls are the future, girls will change the world, the campaign says.

Two days ago a Pakistani girl was shot by the Taliban because she dared to say this:

I clipped this excerpt from the New York Times documentary by Adam B Ellick and Irfan Ashraf that profiled Malala Yousafzai in 2009.

Malala came to prominence because she wrote a blog about life under the Taliban.

As I write Malala fights for her life in hospital. But even as she struggles to survive her attempted assassination, she is already changing her world and ours.

Watching the documentary today, I was in tears. Here's another short short clip from the documentary of another schoolgirl from Malala's area begging for change.

Change for girls should NOT have to come at such a terrible price.

This morning Malala was on my mind as I took part in the International Day of the Girl speed mentoring event at the Southbank Centre, part of their Wow Women of the World Festival 2012.

Hundreds of women from every sector in society, women of power, of talent, and achievement massed at the Royal Festival Hall to meet young girls from schools all over London. In small groups, we occupied pods in the London Eye - six girls, six mentors to a pod. We went round twice. And as we we went round each girl got to chat to the mentors, one on one, about anything at all.

In our group we had a journalist, a detective (so cool!), the artistic director of a theatre, a winner of Master Chef, a public relations executive and me (for comic relief).

Our lovely girls were thirteen year olds from Battersea Park School - by the time they got off the ferris wheel they had schmoozed a rainbow of women they would not otherwise have met in the schoolyard.

As I met these beautiful, sparky, hopeful girls,  questions about Malala went round and round my brain.

Why should children have to fight for their most basic rights? Why should they have to be so brave? Why should they have to suffer at the hands of the adults who should be building a future for them? What can we do so that children like Malala can have a childhood free of these terrible burdens? 

The answer must be by taking these small steps to change things.

The International Year of the Child seeks to highlight the unfairness of girls bearing the burden of poverty more than anyone else. "75 million girls are denied an education. This isn't fair and this isn't right," says Plan UK, a global charity spearheading the campaign.

In every little way we possibly can, let us make it fair and make it right. Right now.

Sign Plan UK's petition calling on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to lead action by world leaders by making girl's education a priority. Sign the petition

With thanks to teacher Karen Lawman and the fantastic girls from Battersea Park School (who were mentoring me more than I was mentoring them), Kate Turner of Plan UK who looked after me so well, the South Bank Centre and to the Random House Children's Books gang for being awesome as usual.