By Priyanka Vaid:
Recognising the importance of the fact that the empowerment of girls is indispensible for economic growth and the progress of humanity, the United Nations designated October 11th, 2012 as the first International day of the Girl Child. Just two days before that, on October 9th, 2012, a group of harsh fundamentalists shot a fourteen-year-old girl, Malala Yousafzai and two of her friends in the Swat valley of Pakistan. As the light of emancipation of women spreads in the world, there is still darkness in places like the Switzerland of Pakistan- the Swat valley- where the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist group has made it difficult for girls to receive their taleem (education).
Malala Yousafzai, a runner-up of the International Children’s Peace Prize, is a dedicated supporter of female education. Her first attempt in this regard was a blog that she wrote on BBC Urdu during the time when the Taliban had control over the Swat valley. Although she wrote under a pseudonym, Malala later became a well-known face in the country due to her appearances on television and radio, voicing her opinion. Her blog incited hatred for the Taliban in the hearts of the people of Pakistan. The Taliban, which has been condemned internationally for the oppression of women, had forced many schools of Swat to shut down in 2009. But, when Malala became a regular face on TV, supporting education for girls and criticizing the Taliban, the militant group felt threatened. By pulling the nozzle on her, they wanted to send a message to the other girls that the edict of the Taliban is supreme and those who do not follow would be served alike. However, the Taliban’s attempt to plant fear in the hearts of the people might have failed as girls throughout Pakistan are out, marching on the roads, supporting Malala’s bravery and chanting slogans against the Taliban. People have been praying for her and the brutal act has stimulated the hatred and anger, suppressed in the hearts of people all over the world, for Taliban. The attack on the girl has been termed Un-Islamic by the Muftis of the Sunni Ittehad Council of Pakistan.
Malala has now become a ‘young heroine’, with the UN Secretary General, Ban ki-moon calling her a ‘role model’ for the world. Help is pouring in from all quarters of the world for Malala, who is in a critical condition at the Army hospital in Pakistan. Her act of valour has been recognised all over the world with the International media buzzing with reports on praise for Malala and the importance of the cause. The New York Times called the attack a reminder “that the global struggle for gender equality is the paramount moral struggle of this century, equivalent to the campaigns against slavery in the 19th century and against totalitarianism in the 20th century”. Malala is now being known the world over as a confident and brave girl who could do what many older people in Pakistan could not, i.e. oppose the wrongs done to them. Being called the face of the education for girls’ movement, Malala has achieved more than just a celebrity status; she has aroused the young blood of Pakistan to speak up for their rights.