Yesterday was the United Nations first ever (and let’s hope it will be annual) International Day of the Girl. In the post I wrote, I discussed what we can all do to help the efforts in regards to women’s rights all over the globe and I briefly touched upon Malala Yousafzai. However, after realizing last night that some people don’t know her name and only know her as “the 14-year-old whom the Taliban tried to kill,” I knew I had to write more about her.
On October 9, 2012, Malala was shot once in the head and once in the neck by the Taliban. She was on the bus riding home from school, when the shooter pulled up along side and demanded to know which of the students was Malala. Once it was clear which of the girls she was, she was then shot those two times. These were not warning shots; the Taliban intended to murder her. Not long after the shooting, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack citing that this child, although wise beyond her years “is the symbol of the infidels and obscenity.” They have vowed to try again should she survive.
Born in 1998, Malala was raised in northwestern Pakistan in an extremely progressive family. Her father, a poet, owner of several schools and an educational activist in his own right, is the one who initially inspired his daughter to take charge of the situation around her and stand up for her beliefs.
In 2009, Malala’s school in Swat Valley was one of many that were shut down by the Taliban as they tried to institute a ban on educating girls. It was at that time that Malala, then only 11, started a blog under an anonymous name for the BBC. In it, she wrote candidly about her life under the Taliban as well as her beliefs, political views and her advocacy for women’s rights. Don’t even think about what you were doing at 11, because you’ll just make yourself depressed.
Although the Taliban would eventually be removed from the area and Malala was able to return to school, the prominence that came with her bravery (she won Pakistan’s first National Peace Prize) resulted in the end to her anonymity. In other words, she had a target on her back. She had put fear in the Taliban, and they would not rest until she was silent.
So why do we all need to pay attention to Malala Yousafzai?