Malala's Movement

Friday, January 31st, 2014

If you haven’t heard of Malala Yousafzai before, prepare to be amazed.  So far she’s become the youngest nominee for a Nobel Peace Prize and she’s won other humanitarian awards for her human rights activism and promotion of female education.  She’s taken on the Taliban and was shot in the face, almost fatally, for it. She’s addressed the United Nations and she’s now a published author.  Oh, did I mention she’s sixteen?

Malala’s activism started when she was only twelve and the Taliban infiltrated her town in the Swat area of northern Pakistan, burning schools, slaughtering civilians and anyone who got in the way of their plan to prevent girls from becoming educated and rendering them powerless. 

Heroically, Malala stayed in Swat and continued to speak out publicly against the Taliban’s practices and for the right of all girls to be educated.  Even when she received threats on her life, she stayed.  Last year, a member of the Taliban boarded Malala’s school bus and shot her point blank in the face.  Miraculously, she survived and has inspired a worldwide movement and a new kind of feminist mindset. 

Last week, she made multiple American television appearances to promote her new book, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.  When she visited The Daily Show last week, she left host Jon Stewart speechless with her plan to peacefully negotiate with the Taliban if she ever encountered them again. 

What really amazes me is her poise and confidence in these speaking engagements.  Besides the fact  that she is wise beyond her years, she seems to have no trouble going toe-to-toe with anyone from Diane Sawyer to President Barack Obama.

When she addressed the UN about education earlier in the year she said, "Instead of sending weapons, instead of sending tanks to Afghanistan and all these countries which are suffering from terrorism, send books. Instead of sending soldiers, send teachers. This is the only way we can fight for education..." 

It’s remarkable that this sixteen year old from a war-torn country is able to solve problems and create change quicker and more peacefully than any member of Congress or leader in the free world.  In the midst of this government shutdown, it’s even more embarrassing.

While meeting with President Obama last week, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize himself, Malala took him to task on American drone attacks in the Middle East.  She stated, “Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.” 

It seems obvious that our efforts in the Middle East have often been misguided and unproductive.   If our foreign policy involved education as much as it involves violence, maybe relations wouldn’t be so strained and volatile? 

Although Malala lost out on the Nobel Peace Prize to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, her fight is far from over and she will continue to inspire girls and humans everywhere. 

It’s encouraging that young girls finally have a role model worth modeling themselves after, rather than typically vapid pop stars and celebrities.  Malala’s message is universal though, and I can’t wait to join her fight and see what she does next.  Girl power.


 Reprinted from The SpringHillian