On January 15th, 2009, 11-year-old Malala Yousafzai wrote on her BBC blog, “The night was filled with the noise of artillery fire and I woke up three times. But since there was no school I got up later at 10 am. Today, I also read the diary written for the BBC (in Urdu) and published in the newspaper. My mother liked my pen name 'Gul Makai' and said to my father 'why not change her name to Gul Makai?' I also like the name because my real name means 'grief stricken'…”
As world news breaks of the barbaric Taliban attack on Malala, now 14-years-old, outside of her school today in the Swat, Pakistan village, it becomes all too apparent that her name now embodies its own sad reality.
At the age of twelve, Malala stated to Al Jazeera, “The people of Swat are not terrorists. If this new generation is not given pens, they will be given guns by terrorists.”
This spoken from the mouth of a baby.
Her outspoken work garnered her a nomination for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011, and though she didn’t win the award – later that year her country went on to award her the National Youth Peace Prize for the bravery in her work blogging and speaking out against the atrocities of the Taliban in her region.
And though it has been widely publicized that Malala received many death threats over the years, she chose to continue on her path to educate the world about the human rights violations the Taliban were inflicting on her countrymen.
Today, the NY Times reported, “The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying Ms. Yousafzai had been targeted for her criticism of the Taliban and because it considered her human rights campaigning to be an “obscenity.”
Imagine that, an obscenity for campaigning for human rights – punishable by death.
Here in the United States we have the freedom to blog about everything from the latest celebrity cheat scandal to the President’s report card. But how many of us can honestly say we’d put our life on the line on a daily basis to blog about the injustices that surround us?
Malala has introduced the world to the truest definition of courage. And she now serves as an inspiration to anyone wanting to use their voice to better humanity that age is nothing but a number and resources are to be respected and utilized for the greater good.
In a world that now moves faster than the speed of light and where news is here today and gone five minutes later – this is news that should cause us all to spend some time on self-reflection, asking ourselves how we can utilize our voices to better our communities and humanity as a whole.
As Malala lies in critical condition recovering from being shot in the head and neck by cowardly gunmen whose only aim in life is to oppress, let’s use our voices to remind our teenagers that in other countries getting an education often times means risking one’s life.
And if they don’t want to be preached to by an adult, let them read Malala’s blog entry where she selflessly wrote, “I was getting ready for school and about to wear my uniform when I remembered that our principal had told us not to wear uniforms. My friend came to me and said, 'for God's sake, answer me honestly, is our school going to be attacked by the Taleban?' During the morning assembly we were told not to wear colourful clothes as the Taleban would object to it…”
Maybe if our teenagers really let this sink in, they’ll get up and go to school tomorrow with the understanding that education isn’t a privilege – it’s a right and a necessity worth fighting for… and yes, even worth dying for.