[Cartoon Credit: Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune]
“I was getting ready for school and about to wear my uniform when I remembered that our principal had told us not to wear uniforms – and come to school wearing normal clothes instead. So I decided to wear my favourite pink dress. Other girls in school were also wearing colourful dresses and the school presented a homely look.
“My friend came to me and said, ‘for God’s sake, answer me honestly, is our school going to be attacked by the Taleban?’ During the morning assembly we were told not to wear colourful clothes as the Taleban would object to it.”
-Malala Yousafzai, January 5, 2009
Stories about 15 year old Malala Yousafzai flooded the news in the days after she and two of her friends were shot on a school bus by Taliban members back at the beginning of October. What’s so special about this girl? She wrote a blog for the BBC Urdu. A blog about wanting boys and girls in Pakistan to have equal educational rights. She appeared in news stories across Pakistan and the rest of the world. She became the country’s first National Youth Peace Prize recipient in December 2011, at the age of 14. She was nominated for an international award. She campaigns for girls to have the right to an education. The problem? People are listening to her.
While the world hung in suspense, waiting to see if this courageous young woman would make it through, Pakistanis united together in honor of Malala. “They wanted to kill her. But she fell temporarily. She will rise again. She will stand again,” her father, Ziauddin, told reporters in late October. And so she will. Despite receiving shots to the head and neck, Malala is recovering well in a hospital in England. And Pakistani citizens? They too are speaking out against the Taliban.
“A rickshaw touring the streets of Islamabad has a slogan posted on it: ‘Malala for education and peace.’ Go to the local girls’ school and every girl seems to have written either a poem or a song, a letter or a card to Malala. Listen to the politicians and every speech is laced with references to the courage of Malala. Meet civil society organizations and they will tell you that the audience for their educational demands has risen markedly over the last few weeks. It seems that Malala’s courage has awoken Pakistan’s silent majority who are no longer prepared to tolerate the threats and intimidations of the Pakistan Taliban.” – Gordon Brown, “Malala Spurs School-for-All Vow, Now Deliver”
Following the attack on Malala, there was an enormous public outpouring of support for her, from vigils praying for her recovery to the government observing a moment of silence in her honor. Rallies emerged and protestors carrying signs saying things like “Malala, our prayers are with you” and “Shame on you, Taliban” were prevalent. The National Youth Peace Prize, of which she was the first recipient, was renamed in her honor to the National Malala Peace Prize. Her local school will be renamed from Khushal Public School to Malala Public High School. Furthermore, the United Nations declared November 10 to be Malala Day, saying that. Her friends that were also injured in the attack, Kainat Riaz Ahmed and Shazia Ramzan, are being honored with the Star of Courage, a military award not usually given to civilians.
From one blogger to another, I wish Malala Yousafzai all the best. She is a shining beacon of light for Pakistani girls and for girls all around the world who are not afforded the basic right to an education. Wherever her path takes her, Malala will continue to be a symbol for hope and a pathway for change. As an environmental science major, I know this post is a pretty big departure from my other posts , but if 15 year old can have that amount of influence and have made that much of an impact, maybe I too will have a chance at making an impact one day in my field of conservation and sustainability.
“I convinced my friends and other classmates of the importance of education and told them that our primary education will decide our future. I am thankful not only to the students but also to their parents for honouring my requests and sending their daughters back to school.”