director’s note: please join thinkpeace girls and watch the commercial-free television premier of He Named Me Malala on the National Geographic channel, Monday, February 29th at 8pm/7C. We’ll be live tweeting about actions you can take to stand up for girls worldwide. #imagine
On July 12, 1997 I looked into my daughter’s eyes for the first time and was filled with a love deeper than I had ever known and so much hope for her future. I named her Remington, a strong Scottish family name that I knew suited her. It wasn’t super feminine or decisively masculine. To me she was a gladiator, determined at birth to fight for what is right and to protect others. I just knew. 7,748 miles away on the same day another gladiator was born. Her father looked into her eyes and felt the same rush of love and hope. He named her Malala, after another girl who had dared to speak out. My daughter was a blue-eyed blonde, his was a brown-eyed brunette. Both were born in popular locations, Remington in the San Francisco Bay Area of California and Malala in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. As parents, we all looked forward to the same things: first words, first steps, first days of school. We wanted our girls to grow up happy and healthy, smart and capable, warriors ready to do their part to make the world a better place.
Their worlds, however, were vastly different. Remington had the privilege of attending wonderful public schools where the greatest danger to her was crossing the street in a heavily trafficked neighborhood or, worse-case scenario in Northern California, an earthquake. Meanwhile, Malala’s country was being taken over by the Taliban who insisted that girls be denied access to education. For her educator father, this was not to be. She attended his school, despite the threats against him. He was adamant that all children, boys and girls, had the right to an education. True to her namesake, Malala began to speak out. The result, as you know, was a bullet to her head and the shooting of her classmates as well. As the world rallied around these girls, praying for their survival and outraged at this act of violence, my daughter became more determined to use her voice her way. Malala went on to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and speak before the United Nations and at events like the Global Citizen Concert. Her voice is strong and her message constant: all children have the basic human right to an education. Meanwhile Remington is a quiet activist, doing her part to educate others about the issues facing girls worldwide and actions they can take to be a part of the solution. Both are continuing their educations and are actively pursuing peace and tolerance in their own way. Hopefully Remington will never know the fear and anxiety that are an every day part of Malala’s life, though certainly she has her own. Hopefully Malala’s message of “Books not Bullets” will be heard. Hopefully Remington’s message of “listen, don’t judge” will be heard. Malala asks us to stand together. Together they are doing their part to spread their messages and advocate for girls’ rights.
What are you doing? You are each gladiators stepping into your own arenas, whether that’s the stage and the podium or the dorm room late at night– the battle is still being waged. Your voices must be heard. Your differences should be celebrated. Your opinions, thoughts and feelings MATTER. You are a girl and you matter. At thinkpeace we encourage you to step into your arena ready to listen, understand, question, and support knowing that you have all of us standing with you. Just as we all stand #withMalala.