Malala Yousafzai, the young and brave 15-year-old, who was shot twice back in October for speaking out against the Taliban and their banning of girls’ education, was finally released from the Queen Elizabeth hospital, this past Thursday, in Birmingham, England – the country where she was sent, in order to be treated for her bullet wounds. And now that she has recovered wonderfully and has been released from hospital, which is without doubt really great news, we can’t say for certain that Malala is a 100 percent better. No one can ever claim that, for while she may be physically better, meaning that she is mobile and is able to talk and communicate without much difficulty, there is still the psychological trauma that one will have to put into consideration. After all, she is a young girl who suffered immensely and without reason, and it may perhaps take some time to heal.
Nevertheless, I can’t help but wonder what is in store for her now. I am certain she had no idea how much she was, and still is, being commemorated and adored all across the world, especially when we all learned the initial news of her shooting (more on this can be read here); it literally spread like wildfire and soon everyone was writing/blogging, sharing/translating her diaries, and paying tributes to her. Indeed she is an aspiration not only to Pashtun women, but millions of other people all over the world. Her story has inspired and motivated many to fight for human (women’s) rights, and has thus brought depth and meaning to the lives of many others who would also like to follow in her courageous footsteps.
It is obvious that the Taliban targeted Malala due to her relentless objection to the group’s regressive “interpretation” of Islam that claims to limit access to girls’ education. And though Malala is currently in the UK, far away from the clutches of her relentless foes; her mission is not that of survival any more, but rather to struggle against these barbarians – these barbarians whose only aim is to get rid of young women like Malala in order to practice power, oppression and patriarchy in a region that allows them to, simply because no one has the guts, like Malala, to stand up to them and challenge their barbaric, inhumane ways.
It has been reported that Malala will remain in Britain to continue her education and because her father, Ziauddin, was recently appointed as the education attaché at the Pakistani Consulate in Birmingham, which secures a work contract of three years, chances of Malala staying in the UK may perhaps even surpass the mere three years, guaranteeing her stay in Britain for up to five years. And while I am psyched about this, because this drastic change in living arrangements ensures her safety and the fact that she will be able to do what she loves best: study; I can’t help but wonder what will happen once the four or five years are over. Will she remain in Britain or go back to Pakistan?
Though, there is no doubt that Malala hopes and perhaps even intends that she will eventually get well enough to return back to her home in Swat Valley, and that no harm or threat will come to her. Yet, as pessimistic as this may sound, the day seems far away, for the Taliban will take every opportunity to find her and get rid of her, despite the fact that they failed so miserably the first time around. They even admitted that they plan to target Malala again, because they claim that she promotes, and I quote, “Western thinking.” Yet, despite the threats, the Pakistani Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, has promised her government protection. But one can’t help but wonder how much protection will she receive when she has enemies all around her, monitoring her every move and waiting to pounce on her the very chance they get?
Pakistan is in a state of war right now. And while it is much, much safer for Malala to stay in the UK, it is still uncertain where she will choose to live in the future, for she is the sole determinant of her destiny; Malala is certainly not the type of girl who would appreciate being told where she should and shouldn’t live.
It’s amazing how those living in the West take going to school for granted; no female child ever has to wake up in the morning feeling like they will be threatened, nor does the fear of death looms over them. Yet, young girls living in such places within Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan have to think twice before leaving their houses; some hide their books underneath their paRuneys (a cloth used to cover a female’s body from head to toe); while others just avoid school all together, simply out of fear and apprehension. Indeed, there are many parts of the world were kids don’t have access to education, especially girls, or aren’t allowed access to education; yet, Malala has become a symbol and leader for the cause of universal access to education. She became the unofficial hero of the first ever International Day of the Girl, and she was runner-up for Time’s 2012 Person of the Year.
Malala has became a child prodigy; a sweetheart of not only the Pakistani nation, but for the whole world. And now that we’ve learned of her wonderful and quick recovery, all we can do is watch and wait for more miracles to take flight.
We need girls like Malala; the world needs girls like Malala. Young women like her give us hope; it reminds us of the fact that no matter what adversaries come, or try to come our way, we have the power and the ability to take things into our own hands. Yes, there will always be fear and retribution, but again that shouldn’t stop women from fighting against oppression and injustice. And now that Malala has recovered, there is no doubt that great responsibility rests on her shoulders now — a responsibility that she chose to pursue because of her desire and passion for education. I am truly hoping that once she is fully recovered, she will continue to do great and wonderful things, for she is bold and fearless; and because her ultimate goal is to become a politician, she is the perfect example of what true leadership entails.
Furthermore, now that Malala has become such an internationally renowned icon for peace and justice, there is no doubt that there will be many expectations, not only from the international community, but from fellow Pashtuns, as well. And because she is so influential, it would be eminent that she create strong ties with various NGOS and humanitarian organizations, and seek their help in her struggle, for being only a child herself, it would not be feasible to do it all on her own. She could facilitate workshops, design programs, etc. that will give women the courage and motivation to understand their rights and hence attain the courage and ability to speak up. Perhaps men, too, can attend these workshops and learn a thing or two about the importance of education for women. After all, the biggest problem is lack of awareness and realization as to how important education is for not only men, but for women as well. And many men fail to realize this, because they often feel that once a woman becomes educated, she will no longer be “cultured” or worse, become “promiscuous.” However, that is highly erroneous thinking and it needs to be rectified through proper awareness. Men need to realize that by educating their women, they ease the burden on themselves, because educated women will also be able to work and earn money, which would equate to a much better standard of living. These people need to realize that a proper functioning society needs men, women, and children to have equal opportunities in order to thrive and progress. Simply subjugating one gender, or groups of people, will only hinder development and thus will greatly harm the society instead of making it better.
I have faith in Malala; the world has faith in her, and if she has managed to come this far in her struggle for peace, justice and education, then there is certainly no stopping her now.