This is the second posting dedicated to people who are powerful beyond measure. And this is the story of Malala Yousefzai.
I lived in Pakistan in 2005 and worked as a first responder for the earthquake in Kashmir, which led to the deaths of over 75,000 people. I’ve traveled in and out of Pakistan since then and have seen the security situation decline throughout the country. Pakistan’s true spirit of poetry, art, literature, and music has become a frontline of extremist ideology, class and ethnic struggle, poverty, and foreign intervention.
Malala Yousefzai is a young girl from the town of Mingora in the volatile Swat district of Pakistan, whose father was the headmaster of a girl’s school. Starting in 2009, the Taliban started gaining control of areas around Mingora and threatened to destroy any school for girls that did not close down.
At the age of 11, Malala began writing an online diary about the atrocities being committed by the Taliban and the importance of girl’s education for the BBC Urdu speaking website. She gradually rose in prominence and became a symbol of hope for girls in the country. And despite the risks and threats by the Taliban, Malala returned to school.
In October of last year, a Taliban gunman boarded the school bus Malala was on and shot her in the head at close range. After several days fighting for her life in a hospital in Peshawar, she was flown to a hospital in Birmingham, UK and survived.
She said in an interview six months after the shooting on her first day back at school in the UK, “I want to learn how to bring change in this world and how I should work for the happiness and education for the girls.”
Since the shooting, Malala has become a cosmic force for change and an international symbol for the fight for girls education. She is the youngest person to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, Time Magazine’s included Malala on their list of the 100 most influential people of 2013, Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon announced that the UN will celebrate Malala Day on 10 November, and Angelina Jolie has launched a charity to fund girl’s education in her honor – just to name a few.
The international support for Malala’s story tells us that certain rights are universal and transcend sovereign borders and ideology and that is the right to get an education.
But now restraint is required. Bollywood is already filming a movie about Malala, Malala’s story is being published in a memoir, and she is getting barraged by Diane Sawyer-type interviews. And while this attention is good for awareness raising, we also need to let Malala be a 15 year old girl. There’s no doubt from watching her in interviews and reading about her resolve, she is a future leader in the making and she’ll get there on her own.
I ask that you pray for Malala’s safety and the safety of all the girls around the world who choose to risk their lives to get an education.
Find out more about Malala and her amazing story in the links below.
News articles about Malala:
- Vanity Fair: http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2013/04/malala-yousafzai-pakistan-profile
- BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-22035333
- New York Times report of Malala before the shooting (worth watching):
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Remember, it’s the little changes we make in our daily life that brings greater peace to the whole.