‘Who’s Malala?’, asked a Taliban gunman in October of 2012 to a school bus full of terrified girls. Nobody answered, but all looks turned to a girl at the back unintentionally. Malala says she does not remember much apart from the fact that she had a very difficult test the next day, a test she would never take. She also remembered that the man’s hands were shaking before he shot her three times.
Fortunately for the world, Malala did not die that day. Whether you believe that she was protected by a higher power or by a great team of doctors in Pakistan and England, or even both, the fact remains that she survived the horrifying experience to tell her tale to the world in an amazing book released in 2013.
When I first saw Malala’s book on a window display of one of my favourite bookstores, I had a vague idea of who she was. I picked it up out of curiosity (after all, who doesn’t want to know more about a young girl who stood up to Taliban?), read a few pages and just could not put it down.
Her life narrative is poignant from beginning to end. The love she has for Pakistan, and more specifically for the Swat District, where she was born and raised, makes your anger towards her situation that much greater. Malala is a girl raised by loving parents. Her father is an activist whose mission in life is to make education available to all. He has also been a big influence in her life. Her mother comes from a generation of women who were denied education because they were raised to be wives and mothers. Reading and writing were not top priorities if you were going to spend your life completely devoted to your husband and kids. Malala’s father, however, thought differently. He believed boys and girls were equally entitled to an education and passed on his beliefs to his daughter.
Malala learned plenty from her father’s activism towards education and equality, and she grew up to become one of the best students in her school. Being very imaginative, she soon became a great speaker as well, a trait she also inherited from father. It was thanks to her father’s activism and support that Malala eventually became the voice of education in Pakistan when the Taliban began to ban girls from attending schools. At the age of eleven, she blogged anonymously to BBC about how it was to live under the Taliban regime. Schools were destroyed and people were persecuted. As if the Taliban’s terror was not enough, her region was also attacked by USA’s drones and hit by a massive earthquake and floods, which only made the Taliban stronger as they were the ones with access to the area and could provide help for those in need. They did not help for the goodness of their heart. They helped because then they could use people’s trust to their own agenda.
In 2011, Malala was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize but did not win. But she did raise awareness to the problems in Pakistan and was awarded the National Peace Award for Youth by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani. The fact that she was such a passionate advocate for girl’s education caught the attention of the Taliban, which led to her attempted murder. When Malala was at the hospital fighting for her life, it was decided that she had to leave the country not only for a better treatment, but also because the Taliban was still a threat. On 15 of October she was transferred to Birmingham, in the United Kingdom. She endured a great deal of her recovery alone in a foreign country because her family was held back due to bureaucracy and the fear that once out of Pakistan, they would ask for political asylum (and that would look really bad for the Pakistani government).
When the Yousafzai family left to be with their daughter, they expected to come back home quickly. But Malala’s recovery, though extraordinary, took time. Besides, it is still very dangerous for them in Pakistan, so the family remains in England.
After everything she went through, Malala continues on her journey to fight for her beloved people. She even dreams of becoming a politician. It breaks my heart that she views politics as it should be, not as it really is. But I suppose that an element of naivety is needed if you really want to change things for the better. She believes that education can change the world and open people’s minds. After reading her story, I believe she is just the right girl for the job. I believe she will not be tainted or corrupted, which makes me a lot more worried about her future. She has a long way to go, and a lot of good will. She is brave and smart. I think she can do it. She was named after a woman warrior, after all, and she has the support of her family.
The end of the book left me hopeful. Here is this amazing young girl still fighting after going through so much. And here is to more Malalas in the world!