This week, I was shaken to the core by the story of Malala Yousafzai. I can’t shake her from my mind or my heart. She’s made such an impact that I had to tell my survey students about her yesterday while giving my lecture on the history of slavery.
If you don’t know her story, here’s a brief summary. While Taliban forces invaded her town in northern Pakistan, Malala publicly spoke about her desire to have an education. Suddenly, Malala – at the ripe old age of 11 – became Public Enemy No. 1 in the eyes of the Taliban.
On Tuesday, Malala was shot in the head while she was sitting on a bus with her classmates. A masked religious zealot, the worst kind of mad man, thought he was executing the will of his god by attacking an innocent 14-year-old girl and two of her classmates. When asked about the attack, a Taliban spokesman confirmed that Malala was indeed the target because of her ‘obscene’ agenda to openly speak about the importance of education. And then he crudely concluded his statement saying, “Let this be a lesson.”
There are A LOT of things I could say about this story. I could comment on the evils of religious extremism and fanaticism. I could talk about how women – though over ½ of the world’s population – face discrimination, injustice, and even violence every day all over the world. But those things can wait. I’d rather talk about Malala today.
Pakistan is not really the place where equality exists, especially if you’re a woman. So here’s this young girl who lives in a seemingly hopeless situation where dreams have little chance to grow. Yet, she dares to be more than what her circumstances say she can be. And she decided to use those dreams to inspire those around her to do the same.
Malala’s life and struggle is a reminder to us all of a few very important things that we tend to forget. 1) We are so blessed. Believe in whatever god you believe in, if you’re an American, you are blessed and in more ways than one. 2) Everybody has a voice, and everyone has the right to use it. What are you doing with yours? 3) You have one life. Make it matter.
Miraculously, Malala is still alive, but she’s fighting for her life, and if she survives, the Taliban says they’ll kill her for sure. But ironically, by trying to repress a voice, they’ve fanned a flame. And now the fire has spread worldwide.
“Let it be a lesson,” he said.
And on we go…
Note: If you were moved by Malala’s story, you can stand with her by visiting this site: http://www.unicefusa.org/campaigns/stand-with-malala/. Sign the “Zero Pledge” to support UNICEF’s goal of educating girls around the world, and please consider supporting UNICEF’s education program in Pakistan.