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Rubio, Malala and beer — a discussion about girls’ education

POSTED: November 15, 2015 12:49 p.m.
GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio has had a somewhat successful fall. Not only did many say he did well in the last GOP debate, but recent poll numbers also show support for Rubio has risen, with 11 percent of GOP primary voters saying they’d elect him to be the Republican presidential nominee.

Those numbers, though, may have taken a hit Wednesday during a recent Q&A session in New Hampshire in which the Florida senator gave a “very interesting answer to a very easy question,” according to Mic.

Rubio was asked which person in the world, who isn’t a politician, he would like to get a beer with, Mic reported. He chose Malala Yousafzai, an 18-year-old Pakastani woman, Muslim and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Rubio’s answer sparked many reactions across social media, most pointing to how Yousafzai isn’t legally able to drink in the United States yet and how drinking alcohol is against Yousafzai’s Islamic faith.

This isn’t the first time a GOP candidate has said something that could offend Muslims. As I wrote back in September, both GOP front-runners Donald Trump and Ben Carson offended Muslims with comments they made about whether or not a Muslim would ever be president of the United States. Carson specifically said he didn’t see it as a possibility.

But Rubio didn’t intend on his answer striking a cord with Muslims. After all, Yousafzai was just one of three names he mentioned in his response — the others were famed NFL quarterback Dan Marino and former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov, according to the New York Daily News.

Rubio may also have been using this as an opportunity to show his support for worldwide girls education, something Yousafzai as been advocating for the last few years.

Girls' education has gained ground across the world in the last decade, with “more girls attending school in the developing world than ever before, and the gender gap in education has narrowed considerably,” according to research by The Brookings Institute.

But that’s where the celebration ends. Brookings noted that many countries across the world don’t have equal education for boys and girls. In fact, only countries with advanced economies, Latin America, Europe, and Central Asia have relatively equal education among both genders, according to Brookings.

“Several of the world’s poorest countries belong to the first group, showing little progress despite the technical and financial support of international development agencies such as UNESCO and the World Bank,” according to The Brookings Institute.

To lessen this divide, first lady Michelle Obama suggested in a piece for The Atlantic that some countries across the world need to change their cultural beliefs and practices to ensure that girls around the world get proper education.

“Right now, 62 million girls worldwide are not in school,” Michelle Obama wrote. “They’re receiving no formal education at all — no reading, no writing, no math — none of the basic skills they need to provide for themselves and their families and contribute fully to their countries.”

The first lady noted that some programs — like Let Girls Learn, a program she launched in the United States, and the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative — have helped girls get better access to education. But just offering scholarships, better transportation and more resources for education worldwide isn’t enough to help every girl, she wrote.

Rather, to ensure that girls get higher salaries, healthier families and a better life — which all come from proper education, according to Michelle Obama — countries need to support girls’ education and make it a constant topic of conversation.

The first lady plans to have conversations about girls' education with some Middle Eastern countries as a part of her Let Girls Learn program, like Qatar, where there are “outdated laws and traditions that oppress and exclude women” from education, she said.

“Cultural shifts like these can spur countries to make greater investments in girls’ education,” the first lady wrote for The Atlantic. “And when they do, that can cause a powerful ripple effect that can lead to even greater cultural and political progress on behalf of women.”

Rubio’s suggestion of meeting with Yousafzai — though, maybe without the beer — may be another step in that direction.
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