Malala: Speaking up for Education and Women’s Rights
On October 10, 2014 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai for her work for young people's rights, including the right to education.
By Mareesa Miles
“Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons." – Malala
How many times have you begged your parents to let you stay home from school? Do you often complain about the amount of homework you have, or blow it off until the last minute, throwing everything together and not putting in your best effort? In the United States we often take for granted our education, complaining about the tedium and begging our parents not to go. I remember taking days off all the time in high-school, blowing through homework and calling it "good enough". But for Malala Yousafzai education was worth risking her life for. Every day she went to school, while many of her friends stopped attending out of fear for their lives. She believed “pens and books [to be] the weapons that [could] defeat terrorism.” Malala did not want to live the confined life that most Pakistani women are subject to; she wanted more. Despite danger she kept going and speaking out to anyone who wanted to listen.
In October of 2012, the then 15 year-old took a shot to the head by the Taliban who believed her voice to be of great danger. Unlike them, she took a stance against the conservative understanding of Islam that prevented women from education; she opted for a more liberal interpretation. Furthermore, she makes it clear that she would do it again:
“Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.”
Awareness of the attack on the young girl spread quickly as she struggled for life in a hospital. The young girl who had such a powerful voice would quite likely never speak again. However, as her story gained publicity, others began to speak out, realizing as one TV presenter did, “if they can target a little girl like Malala, they can target anyone.”
Her strong spirit endured as she came out of a coma, underwent surgeries and rehabilitation. She has gone on to speak at Harvard, met with Obama and the United Nations. In November 2013, Malala appeared at the Glamour Awards and was recognized for her courageous work. Still in her teens she stood among great women such as Hilary Clinton, Lady Gaga, and Barbra Streisand and received the loudest applause. Lady Gaga stated that it was Malala who really deserved the Glamour cover and that she saw huge potential in the young woman. And Streisand made it clear that one's voice is the most powerful weapon. Interested in learning more about this next great heroine? Check out her site and book, I Am Malala:The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and was Shot by the Taliban.