Natalie Morales: Teen shot by Taliban reminds us to stand up for girls

Oct. 11, 2012 at 1:15 PM ET

From right to left, Fabiola, from Cameroon, Gifts, from Ghana, Fatmata, from Sierra Leone, Maryam, from Pakistan, Norul, from Indonesia, Urmila, from Nepal, and Marcella, from El Salvador, with Natalie Morales (center).

We are so lucky to live in a land of opportunities where boys and girls are now treated as equals. Girls grow up to run companies, and they are leaders in all aspects of life here.

But this is sadly not the case in much of the world. Just this week we saw the horrific attack on a 14-year-old child activist in Pakistan. All Malala Yousufzai wanted for her country was the right for girls to get an education. She was targeted by the Taliban on her way to school. A gunman boarded her bus, asked students to point her out and Malala was shot in the head. All because she wrote a blog that inspired a nation to ask for and want more for all kids. Because she wrote about the horrors of the Taliban, she then experienced that horror and is now in critical condition. Can you imagine living with that fear for your children? 

I know luck is a birthright. Being born here in a free and democratic country with equal opportunities most certainly is by luck for many of us. So when I had both of my kids, I decided to give back in a way I thought I could to help other children in parts of the world who are not so fortunate. We have been sponsoring two children in Africa with Plan International for many years. My children love getting letters from the boys we sponsor and it makes me feel good to know in a small way, I’m contributing to hopefully making things a little bit easier for them.

I wish I could do so much more. Now, I am. I have the privilege Thursday of emceeing the first-ever “Because I’m a Girl” International Day of the Girl and will meet some amazing women and girls who are breaking barriers and fighting for girls’ rights to education. The statistics are pretty startling: One in seven young girls becomes a child bride by the age of 15. One in three is not allowed an education simply “because she is a girl.” Some are sold into slavery, at the young age of six. 

Click to learn more about Plan International's "Because I am a Girl" campaign

So today, no matter where you are, reflect on what is an important issue we don’t often talk about. If you live in New York, you may have noticed the Empire State building aglow in pink and today from the London Eye to the Egyptian Pyramids to Niagra Falls, 15 landmarks will be bathed in pink to remind us all that girls have power, too.

Follow #bciamagirl on Twitter to find out more!

TODAY anchor Natalie Morales is helping raise awareness for the first-ever "Because I am a Girl Day."