If to ask sociologists whether it is possible to put poverty to an end, they will say that the solution is to educate women. If to educate the girls between 10 and 14, they can change the society through increasing the average income per capita and the economic growth, and decreasing the level of infantile mortality and the HIV/AIDS. There will be neither early marriages nor child labor. Moreover, the educated mothers will try to educate their children. Girls compose the main source of influence in the developing countries. The economist Lawrence Summers says that the education of women is the only high-profitable investment in the developing world (Brenner). The story of Malala Yousafzai, a girl from the Pakistani Swat Valley, is the brightest example of a fighter for the rights for education and equality of women.
Malala’s story begins with her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, the son of the imam who expressed a deep love for knowledge, unshakable sense of justice and determination to defend his children, irrespective of the circumstances. Like the founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Ziyauddin was convinced that except a sword and a pencil there is the third even more powerful force, which is women. Therefore, when he saw a clever and inquisitive girl in his oldest daughter, he began to pay her as much attention as he did to his sons (“Profile: Malala Yousafzai”).
Malala was born in 1997, when her father tried to overcome the mass of obstacles on the way to the creation of his own school. He faced such challenges as the corrupted government officials, to whom he refused to give bribes, the mufti, who called the education of girls haram and Islam insult, and also the furious jihad from time to time occurring in the form of the Taliban attacks. By that time, when Malala was 10 years old and became the best student in the prospering school of her father, the radical Islamists managed to strengthen their positions in the whole territory from the Swat Valley to Islamabad. Malala adopted the principles of her father, which were acquaintance of the world community with her personality and never speaking of the problems of her country and demanding the normal education for all its citizens (Brenner; “Profile: Malala Yousafzai”).
In the beginning 2009, the Pakistani Taliban tried to keep control over the Swat Valley in the north of the country. At that time, Malala Yousafzai was 11 years old. Her family lived in Mingora, the largest city of the Swat Valley. Among the rigid bans, imposed by the Islamists in the region, there was the ban for school education for girls. Malala’s school was closed, but the girl decided to fight for the right to get an education. The journalist Abdoul Hai Kakar offered the girl to keep a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC in Urdu and to tell about the life under the control of the Taliban (“Profile: Malala Yousafzai”; Brenner).
On October 9, 2012, the threats became a reality. When Malala was in a school bus on the way home from school, it was stopped by the Taliban, who easily found her. They shot her. The bullet passed through her head and neck. Two more girls got less serious wounds. Malala was brought to the military hospital in Peshawar in a critical condition, then to the hospital near Islamabad. During the complex surgery, doctors took out the bullet, which was stuck in a shoulder near a backbone. Surgeon had to open a skull for the hypostasis from a bullet not to cause a brain injury (“Malala Yousafzai’s Speech at the Youth Takeover of the United Nations”).
In Pakistan and in many other countries in the world, people went out to the streets to show the solidarity with Malala. In Afghanistan and Nepal, where women and girls struggle for the rights, there were night prayers for her health and fast recovery. When Malala’s condition was stabilized, she was transported to the hospital of Birmingham for the further treatment. (Brenner; Kellaway).
The Pakistani government paid all medical bills of Malala, allowing the family to visit her. The father was offered a job in the Pakistani consulate in Birmingham. The president of Pakistan called Malala the outstanding girl and pride of the country. However, there were also those, who were searching for the conspiracy theories in Malala’s story. In Pakistan, the international recognition of Malala caused envy and suspicions in some people. They thought that the girl was never shot or that she started to fight for the rights of girls and women for education only in her own mercenary interests, for the sake of glory and money, or for the life in England.
Malala told about this tragic moment of her life in the memoirs, called I am Malala. These memoirs written by the girl in a co-authorship with Christina Lamb, the honored British journalist, who has special feelings to Pakistan and perfectly knows its difficult history, became the book which contains not only the drama of her life but also the important message about the unused potential of women. (Yousafzai & Lamb, 3).
As Malala recovered, her work received more and more recognition. On July 12, 2013, she made her first public speech after the injury. The day when she took the floor at the Youth Takeover of the United Nations, the secretary general of the organization Ban Ki-moon called her a “heroine”. Addressing to the United Nations, she said:
Malala day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights. I speak – not for myself, but for all girls and boys. I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard (“Malala Yousafzai’s Speech at the Youth Takeover of the United Nations”).
Malala spoke to the conference members, calling them “sisters and brothers”. She called upon the governments of all world countries to participate in the antiterrorist campaign, protect children from violence and promote the development of education, especially in the developing countries, saying, “We call upon all governments to ensure free compulsory education for every child all over the world” (“Malala Yousafzai’s Speech at the Youth Takeover of the United Nations”). The countries find money for the defense, but cannot find for education. Thus, in Pakistan more than 20% of the budget is spent on defense and only about 2% on education (Yousafzai & Lamb, 24).
Despite the fact that the US and Pakistani systems of education are similar by structure, the US education is much more advanced and developing. In comparison with the US education system, which is considered to be one of the best in the world due to its democracy of choice and a high quality life, the Pakistani system of education is peculiar with its out-of-date teaching methods and a poor governmental support. The education in Pakistan is free, but the level of the received knowledge is rather low. Thus, despite the fact that children study English, their knowledge level is much lower than the necessary one for the continuation of education in college or university. Unlike the Pakistani system of education, the American one is characterized by the freedom of choice, flexibility and accessibility.
Giving a speech at the Youth Takeover of the United Nations, the girl stressed the importance of education for girls and women, saying that education is a human right, and all people have equal human rights. She addressed to the world leaders with the request to establish peace in the world, as it is necessary for education. Malala finished her touching speech saying that education is the only solution for all problems and it should be the priority for the world community (“Malala Yousafzai’s Speech at the Youth Takeover of the United Nations”).
Nobody discussed the problems of education of girls in Pakistan. Having received the bullet to her head, the Pakistani girl made the global society pay attention at her country and the problem of education. In 2013, Malala got the World of Children Award. The Time Magazine included the girl into the 2013 most influential people in the world list. In 2014, with the titanic plate implanted in her skull and the installed hearing aid, Malala received the Nobel Peace Prize. She is the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner (Kellaway).
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At present, Malala continues her social and political activity. She works in the charitable organizations, realizing her aim to support the education of girls. The Malala Fund has two main directions. Firstly, it is a human rights activity, making the way to people responsible for education and drawing their attention to the problems of education in the developing countries. Secondly, it is practical work, where Malala and her team deal with the difficult situations children are experiencing, and then helping them to get an education. The Malala Fund also awards the girls fighting for their rights. The fund provides them with a platform where they will be able to address to the whole world and tell about the difficulties they face (“Girl Up Teen Reporters Attend NYC Premiere of He Named Me Malala”; Kellaway).
Malala and her fund make a big difference in the world. They started their first project in the Swat Valley – in the girl’s hometown. The grants are given to the girls, who are subject to exploitation and compelled to work. At present, these girls get education, and their families receive financial support. Another project located in Jordan is aimed at supporting refugees from Syria. They improve the conditions and help the children aged 5-13 to receive decent education. In Kenya, the fund started the cooperation with the organization Free the Children. They build schools and hospitals for children in need. (Brenner). Thus, the life of Malala Yousafzai is the bright example of the goal-oriented, persistent and strong-willed individual, who has changed both her life and the lives of millions children, struggling for the basic human rights, like education and freedom of choice.