Though it has been exactly a month since Malala Yousafzai’s shooting, she is still one of the most commemorated individuals in the media; whether on the radio, television, or on the World Wide Web. Although she is well on her path to a wonderful and healthy recovery, there have been countless tributes done in her name; from great ones, such as meaningful poems, songs, and cartoons/drawings (I also attempted to draw her portrait; it can be viewed here) to not-so-great ones, if at all, like Madonna’s rather irreverent and cretinous striptease that makes us all shake our heads in disapproval, while questioning her state of mind.
Nevertheless, the United Nations decision to dub November 10th as Malala Day is, in my opinion, the best tribute of all. It is a day that the whole world will, from now onwards, celebrate in commemoration of this beautiful brave child who, through her bravery and will power, has given voice to so many that have suffered silently for far too long. She is now seen as more than simply an internationally recognized icon, for she has now finally wrested unprecedented support all across the globe, both for the rights and freedom of girls’/women’s education in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
I’m sometimes asked by fellow colleagues, as well as individuals outside my social realm, about Malala and what is so special about her, for she is only a child, like any other, shot by the Taliban; except in her case, she survived, while countless others have died and are hence forgotten. I reminded them that even though Malala was indeed like any other child from the terror-stricken region of Swat, her uniqueness stems from the fact that she was the only one who decided to take a vocal stand against social injustice, and bring awareness to an issue that has simply been swept under the carpet, hence pushing women and girls alike deeper and deeper into oppressive absolutism. This, as a result, earned her paragon recognition, going as far as giving her consideration for the Nobel Peace Prize in honour of becoming a symbol of peace; a symbol of courage; and a symbol of resistance against the Taliban.
Additionally, where the world once associated Pashtuns with the Taliban, it is now Malala who will replace that despicably negative stereotype. And it is Malala’s legacy that will continue to promote Pashtuns in a more positive light. She will soon become the face of a new type of revolution, leaving behind violence and ignorance and promoting peace and literacy.
At times, I can’t help but wonder whether Malala’s shooting was a blessing in disguise – a blessing that not only gave her a second chance at life, but it also allowed people, all across the world, the opportunity to understand and realize just how dire and troublesome the situation pertaining to the sanctions on female education, in most parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and its surrounding regions, has become. Hence, the incident touched a climax of popularity, and not only for the reason that the Taliban had attacked a girl – for we all know that girls like Malala are attacked and killed on a daily basis, except that we never hear about them in the media. Rather, the intense popularity called for the apothegmatic reason to finally raise a voice for the voiceless, and hence condemn the destruction of girls’ schools in Swat (as well as the surrounding areas).
Further, Malala’s popularity in the media led to the influx of messages on social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, followed by numerous petitions calling and urging for the support of female education. The one petition in particular, which was conducted by the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown — the former British prime minister — carried two million (yes, you read that right!) signatures that was handed over to President Asif Ali Zardari this past Friday. And, in the petition, the former prime minister had urged the government of Pakistan to ensure that every child, both male and female, get access to education, and even asked international organizations and NGOs to ensure enrolment of 61 million children, who have been deprived of education, by the year 2015. This, albeit in my view is a rather ambitious goal, I can’t wait to see come to fruition in the very near future. President Asif Ali Zardari, himself, deeply appreciates the courageous Malala, for on Malala Day, he shared the following quote:
Malala stands tall today as a symbol of defiance against those who wish to impose their obscurantist agenda in the name of religion. Malala Day is being observed all over the world to show solidarity with the brave daughter of Pakistan, Malala Yousufzai, who stood defiantly to the militants to pursue her education and refused to bow to their threats and faced the bullets instead of giving up her mission.
It’s indeed heart-warming to know that despite the fact that Pakistan is facing acute terrorism, the observance of Malala Day and the world’s solidarity with Pakistan is a very encouraging sign to vitalize the resolve for the promotion of female education. The world has finally awoken to this cognizance – this importance among Pashtuns. And we have no one but Malala to thank for this.
So, thank you, dear Malala – thank you for standing up for what you strongly believe in. Thank you for giving voice to the voiceless. Thank you for risking your life, only to live and prove to the world that women who stand up for themselves, and their rights, are truly invincible; for not even bullets stand a chance! Thank you for being you, as we all rejoice today and celebrate you; celebrate every single girl; every single female, who inspires to follow in your footsteps and bring change. And for that, I salute you!
Happy Malala Day, everyone!