Nelson Mandela once said that “it is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor.” Her Majesty Queen Rania told us that by educating a girl we educate a family, and work towards the future. There are hundreds of men and women around the world devoting all of their time and effort to improving the lives of girls, because they see it as the best investment in a sustainable future. I couldn’t agree with them more. Progress in the past few decades has been impressive,
Today marks the first International Day of the Girl. As many of my readers have probably noticed I am always interested in covering gender-related issues. This is a day for all girls, but on this day I would like to highlight the heroism of a girl who almost lost her life working for this cause at the tender age of 14.
Four years ago, the Taliban ordered the indefinite closure of all girls’ schools in the Swat district of Pakistan, and destroyed over a hundred of these in the province. Equality Now, an organization dedicated to ending discrimination against girls and women, attempted to, on behalf of girls in the Swat district, establish and reiterate their right to education. Unfortunately, local support was almost non-existent and difficult to come by especially in the face of threats from violent extremists.
Malala Yousufzai, at ten years old, couldn’t bear having her right to education taken away from her and her classmates. She wouldn’t accept silence, and in 2009, at 11 years old, began writing a blog for BBC Urdu under the pseudonym Gul Makai, covering difficulties she and other girls in the Swat district faced as Taliban forces forced a ban on education of girls. When the Taliban took over the province, she couldn’t go to school for a while, and much of her family was displaced. She continued to write her blog, calling for an intervention to preserve the right of education for all girls in Pakistan. Malala was only able to go back to school when the Pakistani army was able to push Taliban forces out of the district. Malala was revealed as the writer of the blog in 2011, and has been recognized internationally for her bravery and heroism, including being nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize.
Two days ago, a Taliban gunman shot Yousufzai twice while she was on a bus going home from school in the Swat District. The chief spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Ihsanullah Ihsan, claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt, viciously commenting that Yousafzai is the “symbol of the infidels and obscenity.” Such extremist views are despicable and disgusting, and any attack on an innocent person, let alone a 14-year-old girl, is simply disgusting, and unjustifiable.
So on this day, the first International Day of the Girl, let us pray that Yousufzai, a hero in every sense of the word, makes a full recovery. Let us remember her story and continue to dedicate ourselves to advancing opportunities girls have around the world, and honor the sacrifices that young girls make to be equal members of their society.