Friday, July 4, 2014

Feminist Friday: Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is a sixteen-year-old girl from the Swat Valley in Pakistan. She is an education advocate, and she  particularly advocates for equal educational opportunities for girls.

When Malala was eleven years old she began to write a blog for the BBC under a pseudonym. The blog discussed her life under Taliban rule, and how the Taliban were attempting to control education in her valley and prohibit girls from attending school.

Malala's father ran a school in their community and was an advocate for equal education opportunities. He encouraged Malala to speak her mind and stand up for herself and her rights. She began to give interviews in print and on television advocating for education and speaking out against the Taliban. These interviews gained international attention and also made Malala a target for the Taliban. She was the subject of a New York Times documentary, and was awarded the National Youth Peace Prize in Pakistan.

Malala and her father 
In 2009 the Taliban set an edict that girls could no longer attend school. They bombed many girls' schools. Later, they allowed girls to attend co-ed primary schools but only until a certain age and girls-only schools were still closed. Malala received death threats and threats to her family from the Taliban but she continued to attend school and she continued to speak out about educational rights.

In 2012, when Malala was fifteen, her school bus was high-jacked by members of the Taliban. One of the men asked, "Who is Malala?" and none of the girls on the bus said anything. The man then saw Malala, recognized her, and shot her three times. One of the bullets entered Malala's head on the left side, travelled under the skin of her face, and entered her left shoulder.

She was taken to the hospital in an air ambulance. She was operated on and once she was stable enough to be moved again she was flown to Birmingham, England where she sought political asylum, and received more operations and medical treatments. Her family later joined her in England.

Malala became an international symbol for educational rights. The United Nations created a petition using the slogan "I Am Malala." The petition is for Pakistan to offer education to every girl, for all countries to outlaw discrimination against girls, and for international organizations to take measures to ensure that out-of-school children are in school by 2015.

In 2013 Malala was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She has received numerous awards and honorary degrees in recognition of her activism. She received honorary Canadian citizenship. In July 2013, on her sixteenth birthday, Malala addressed the United Nations, speaking about educational rights. The U.N. named it "Malala Day," a day to promote educational rights around the world.

On The Daily Show in October 2013 in an interview with Jon Stewart, Malala said, "[The terrorists] do not want women to get education because then women will become more powerful."

When recalling how she used to handle the death threats, Malala said she used to imagine what she would do if the Taliban came for her. She thought she might hit her attacker with her shoe, but then she told herself, "If you hit a Talib with a shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others that much with cruelty and that much harshly. You must fight others, but through peace, and through dialogue, and through education."

Malala's book I Am Malala tells her story in her own words.

The Malala Fund is an organization dedicated to Malala's cause of equal educational opportunities around the world.

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