Each year around Anne Frank’s birthday in June, I write about her honesty, her insight, her bravery, and the impact of her words.
I now have another young female hero, Malala Yousafzai. Please know that no matter what words I use to describe Malala, her actions, or the impact they have had on the world and my heart, my words will never fully portray how listening to her made me feel.
Malala’s quest for education for girls in Pakistan and her bravery in pursuing her quest against the actions of the Taliban culminated in her being brutally shot in the head and neck by a member of the Taliban while returning home on a school bus. She was 14. Two other girls were also seriously wounded in the attack.
Malala’s interview with Jon Stewart made me feel proud of humanity, embarrassed about the opportunities I have ignored throughout my life to speak up at all costs on issues I care about, and joyful that Malala is on this earth and remains so to inspire us. Again, my words are a poor substitute for how she made me feel.
I plan to read her book, “I Am Malala” and to listen to this and other interviews again and again. Her story is not just about the actions of the Taliban or living in Pakistan, but rather it is about any group, government, or individual who denies others the right to think for themselves or to be physically and intellectually free.
When you listen to Malala and hear the joy she carries with her – despite everything she has faced – please let her joy be a reminder that happiness is always a choice.
There are many articles about Malala on the Internet, the information below is from Wikipedia:
Malala Yousafzai (Pashto: ملاله یوسفزۍ [mə ˈlaː lə . ju səf ˈzəj]; Urdu: ملالہ یوسف زئی Malālah Yūsafzay, born 12 July 1997) is a Pakistani school pupil and education activist from the town of Mingora in the Swat District of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. She is known for her activism for rights to education and for women, especially in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. In early 2009, at the age of 11–12, Yousafzai wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC detailing her life under Taliban rule, their attempts to take control of the valley, and her views on promoting education for girls. The following summer, a New York Times documentary was filmed about her life as the Pakistani military intervened in the region, culminating in the Second Battle of Swat. Yousafzai rose in prominence, giving interviews in print and on television, and she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by South African activist Desmond Tutu.
On 9 October 2012, Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen while returning home on a school bus. In the days immediately following the attack, she remained unconscious and in critical condition, but later her condition improved enough for her to be sent to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England for intensive rehabilitation. On 12 October, a group of 50 Islamic clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwā against those who tried to kill her, but the Taliban reiterated its intent to kill Yousafzai and her father.
The assassination attempt sparked a national and international outpouring of support for Yousafzai. Deutsche Welle wrote in January 2013 that Malala may have become “the most famous teenager in the world.” United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown launched a UN petition in Yousafzai’s name, using the slogan “I am Malala” and demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015 – a petition which helped lead to the ratification of Pakistan’s first Right to Education Bill. In the 29 April 2013 issue of Time magazine, Yousafzai was featured on the magazine’s front cover and as one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World”. She was the winner of Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and was nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize (although Malala was widely tipped to win the prize, it was awarded to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons). On 12 July 2013, Yousafzai spoke at the UN to call for worldwide access to education, and in September 2013 she officially opened the Library of Birmingham. Yousafzai is the recipient of the Sakharov Prize for 2013. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malala_Yousafzai
The actions and words of thousands of brave individuals have changed our world for the better. I believe their stories can inspire us change our worlds and to create the life we really want. The key is to figure out what matters most to you and focus on that, which takes grit.
We’ll be talking more about grit in next week’s post. Until then, I hope you can find some time to listen to Malala.
That’s it for now, have a great week.