because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Malala Yousafzai

When Malala Yousafzai was born in the Swat region of Pakistan in 1997, she was named for a woman warrior who lived and fought in Afghanistan in the 1880's. She has lived up to her name.

Taught and inspired by her father, who is a poet and activist and believes that all children should be fully and rigorously educated to bring out their gifts as part of the human race, Yousafzai loves learning. Engaging in critical discourse with her father and others from an early age, she also developed communication skills well beyond her years. And this is what has made her a household word around the world.

The adventure began when she decided to write a blog on life in Swat as the Taliban tried to establish its power there. She used the pseudonym "Gul Makai" (which means "Corn flower"). And the first post appeared on BBC Urdu in January of 2009. Yousafzai may have been only eleven years old, but with bullets flying in the streets and schools and shops closed all over her hometown of Mingora, she most assuredly knew what she was doing and the risks she took.

People started fleeing to other, hopefully safer, places. But Yousafzai wrote on. "Respected Ambassador," she wrote U.S. President Obama's Special Assistant to Afghanistan and Pakistan, "if you can help us in our education, so please help us."

Then, six months after the first blog post, the New York Times made a documentary about her stand, identifying her publicly and garnering her many new opportunities to get out her message via the international mass media, including in her own country. By the end of 2009, Yousafzai -- now twelve -- was chairing the District Child Assembly in Swat and participating in the Institute for War and Peace Reporting's Open Minds Project.

Yousafzai's work over the next two years distinguished her so greatly that Pakistan awarded her their first ever National Youth Peace Prize in December of 2011. Unhappy with Yousafzai's building influence and insulted by her critiques of their views on education and women, the Taliban began sending her death threats. Yousafzai's response? "I don't mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I am afraid of no one."

So, on October 9, 2012, fifteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head while riding a school bus. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination, but she did not die and continues to recuperate in Great Britain. The Secretary General of the United Nations declared November 10th as Malala Day in support of the goal of educating all children around the world. In-your-face women -- and girls -- are a determined lot and their ideas burn in the hearts of too many to kill.

No comments:

Post a Comment