Director’s note: Throughout 2014 our thinkpeace girls will be periodically writing for the blog about things and people that inspire them to be active participants in the Global Girl Community. First in this series is a blog written by Sarah Connolly, a 16 year old from Indiana. Moved by another 16 year old, Sarah is committed to helping others… Imagine!
Sometimes, it can be hard to stand up for what you believe in. We live in a world where people are denied many basic rights, and this is not something we should stand for. We should try to spread the word and influence as many people as possible. One girl did exactly this. As Americans, we may or may not be aware of what is going on outside of our own city, state and country. I am here to inform you of a young Pakistani girl’s journey to get her basic rights. This is the story of Malala Yousafzai, a girl who valued her education above all else.
Malala Yousafzai was born on July 12, 1997. She was raised in the Swat District of Pakistan and was educated by her father. In Pakistan, the Taliban, a group of government officials who regulate the actions of the residents of the country, had the ability to ban girls from attending school. This outraged Malala, and she would not stand for it. She did not feel that the Taliban had the right to take away her basic right to education just because of her gender.
In 2009, Malala started blogging anonymously for BBC News. They wanted an inside source on how girls felt about being stripped of their rights in the Swat District. It was a dangerous task, but her own father recommended her for the job. On January 15, 2009, the Taliban officially banned girls from attending school. Over one-hundred girls’ schools had already been blown up. The next day, Malala came out in public and read pieces of her blog for the first time.
Schools reopened for girls shortly after, but many were too afraid to attend. Malala continue to speak out, and as soon as her blog ended, she was asked to film a documentary for the New York Times. During the Second Battle of Swat, Malala’s family was entirely split up, but the documentary continued to be filmed. Not long after this, Yousafzai’s father received a death threat from the Taliban. This scared the family, but nevertheless, Malala continued to speak out. Her activism kept increasing, and Malala decided that she wanted to be a politician instead of a doctor. More people were learning of her story, and things seemed to be looking up for her. This would not last for long.
Suddenly, Malala seemed to be receiving more and more death threats. They were published in newspapers, and many were slipped under her door. She even began to receive threats over social media. The Taliban was trying to get her to stop fighting against them, but she continued to speak out. The group agreed that they “must” kill her, and they set out to do so. Malala was shot on October 9, 2012, while riding a bus home from school. She was with two other girls, Kainat Riaz and Shazia Ramzan. Malala was shot in her head, neck, and shoulder, and she was unable to speak. The other girls were wounded, but could still speak about what happened. The girls were rushed to the hospital, and they were all treated with the utmost care.
After the shooting, many protests were held. Over two million people signed a petition for the right to education in Pakistan. This led to the first Right to Education Bill in the country. A ten million rupee ($105,000) reward was put on the heads of the men involved in the assassination attempt. The people of the Swat District really began to start speaking up for their rights.
Malala has impacted and changed many lives, and she is only sixteen years old. July 12th was deemed Malala Day in 2013. This was the day of her first public speech since the attack, and it is also her birthday. Her memoir, I Am Malala, was published in October 2013. Maybe we cannot do everything Malala did, but we can for sure take a stand. Find something you are passionate about and use it to change someone’s life. Start with something in your community, and then take it to a larger level. You never know what you can do. Malala started with an anonymous blog, and now she is one of the most well-known activists and heroines of our time. We can all learn from and be inspired by her story.
From a recent article in PolicMic, here are 12 reasons Malala rocked 2013:
1. She took the UN by storm on her 16th birthday. 2. She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. 3. She released her captivating memoir, “I am Malala” 4. She launched her own nonprofit organization, the Malala Fund 5. She left Jon Stewart speechless and taught us all about forgiveness 6. She sparked a dialogue about the importance of education for children 7. She was awarded the 2013 UN Human Rights Prize 8. And the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 9. She’s even inspired a school curriculum 10. She confronted President Barack Obama about drone strikes 11. Her heroic story pushed policymakers on child education 12. She’s going to keep inspiring us in 2014
So, thinkpeace girls… how will YOU rock 2014??