Malala Yousafzai: A Young Voice For Girl’s Education in Pakistan
Malala Yousafzai, a fifteen-year-old Pakistani girl, is currently on the road to recovery in England after suffering an assassination attempt, which was unanimously agreed upon by the Pakistani Taliban. You may be asking yourself while a terrorist organization unanimously voted to murder a young girl. Well, Malala is no ordinary teenager.
She is the daughter of Ziauddin Yousafzai. Ziauddin worked tirelessly for fourteen years to run a school for girls. Since Malala was eleven, she and her father have worked together to become activists for girls’ education in Pakistan. This was no easy feat. In 2007, the Pakistani Taliban (formally the Tehrik-i-Taliban) infiltrated the Swat valley area of Pakistan. The Taliban wanted to prevent girls’ schools from operating, and bombed hundreds of the schools throughout the next two years, but Malala was determined to receive an education. In 2008, the BBC asked if any girls in the Swat valley would be interested in creating a blog of her experiences during this tumultuous time. After one girl dropped out, Ziauddin suggested that his own daughter, under the pen name Gul Makai, could write the diary.
Malala began writing of her life in this Taliban-seized area for ten weeks. She paints a picture of unrest and constant bombings and military control. Malala writes “Only 11 students attended the class out of 27. The number decreased because of Taleban’s edict.” On January 15th, 2009, the Taliban issued an edict banning girls from attending schools. Prior to this, schoolgirls were advised not to wear their uniforms, so Malala and her classmates wore colorful dresses. However, “During the morning assembly we were told not to wear colourful clothes as the Taleban would object to it.”
After some peace was restored to her area, she began publicly appearing, under her real name and face, as a spokesperson for women’s right to education. She even wants her own political party that would exclusively work to promote education for all.
Malala started to gain notoriety as a voice of her generation when she was nominated for the 2011 Children’s Peace Prize and when she won the National Youth Peace Prize in Pakistan, later renamed the National Malala Peace Prize in her honor.
After watching Malala expose the Taliban’s tactics for controlling education, they unanimously agreed that she must be stopped.
On October 9th, as she was traveling home on a school bus, masked gunmen entered the vehicle and one shouted “Which one of you is Malala? Speak up, otherwise I will shoot you all. She is propagating against the soldiers of Allah, the Taliban. She must be punished.” The gunman proceeded to shoot Malala in the head and neck, wounding two other girls in the process.
Unfortunately, she may not be the only victim. The Taliban has vowed to kill her, and they are now threatening an attack against her father.
“We have a clear-cut stance. Anyone who takes side with the government against us will have to die at our hands. You will see. Other important people will soon become victims.”
These chilling words do not seem to deter the spirits of either Ziauddin or the Pakistani people. The head of the military spoke against the attacks and the parliament publicly condemned the attack by passing a resolution. Candlelight vigils, protests, and other demonstrations have been uniting the people of Pakistan and citizens around the world to protest the actions of the Taliban.
Many people from around the globe rushed to her aid, including Gabrielle Giffords. She lined up her top neurosurgeon to help Malala, but eventually her family accepted an offer to travel, in secrecy, to Queen Elizabeth II Memorial Center in Birmingham, England.
Before her journey, Pakistani doctors were able to remove the bullet, which reportedly grazed her brain. “Certainly if you’re talking a couple of inches more central, then it’s almost certainly an unsurvivable injury” said Doctor Rosser.
Malala has made miraculous strides towards recovery. Having suffered a very similar injury to Giffords, she was spared complete loss to the language part of her brain. She is unable to talk, due to a tracheotomy tube, but she is writing notes, standing with some help, and has urged her father and Dr. Rosser to speak on her behalf. ”She is keen that people share the details [of her recovery]. She is also keen that I thank people for their support and their interest” Rosser said.
There is now an online petition from Canada to nominate Malala for the Nobel Peace Prize. Over 36,000 signatures have been added to the petition. Malala continues to recover in the hospital, and her father insists that she will return with her family to Pakistan.
“I first laughed at it because all of our sacrifices, my personal (sacrifices), or this attack on my daughter, cannot have such a cheap purpose that we would go to some other country and live the rest of our life there,” Ziauddin said.
While protests have been springing up around the world, even her classmates have stood by her side. Kainat, a fellow schoolgirl who was shot in the arm during the assassination attempt, proclaimed “I want to tell all the girls to continue their mission to get an education. God willing, I will continue my education.” The world seems to be waiting for many cogs to fall into place. Will Malala recover? Will she be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize? Will the Taliban attempt to kill her in the hospital, or to kill her father before he can visit her?
It is unfortunate that Malala cannot experience a normal childhood. She has turned into the face of a cause. Fortunately, she is not only the face, but she is also the voice– and she seems perfectly willing to take on that role.
“If the new generation is not given pens, they will be given guns by the terrorists,” Malala said. “We must raise our voice.”
Malala is an inspiration to girls and women everywhere, and we wish her a speedy recovery.
Written by Nicole Del Casale