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Friday, July 26, 2013
On Oct. 9, 2012, six shots were fired in the Hindu Kush. Six shots that could change the global future of young women seeking education.
The sun shone with all its radiance that day, and even the mighty Hindu Kush couldn’t keep it hidden, yet there was a strange sense of coolness to the air that assured winter’s delayed arrival.
The scene from the school bus window was picturesque. It reminded the school girls of a Pashto poem they had once read in their school about two estranged lovers reuniting by the river side.
As the bus made its way through the river and into the valley, it came to a halt. Most school girls were still in their seats looking outside to see the cause of the stop when gunmen entered their bus, identified the target and opened fire.
Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old Pakistani educational activist, was shot in the head while returning home from her school in the Swat Valley.
A gunshot wound in the head would break even the strongest of men, but for Malala it was yet another affirmation of the success she had already achieved. She had uncovered a weapon that the Taliban feared: a woman with books.
Her struggle began a few years ago when the militant group took charge of the valley and imposed laws that made it almost impossible for women to seek education. Malala not only secretly defied the ban but also initiated a blog dedicated to her struggle of seeing the inside of a school.
Though she kept her identity hidden, it was through her blog, which was translated and published by the BBC, that the world found out about life under the Taliban.
Her passion and courage only grew from there as she continued to campaign for women’s right to education long after the Taliban had been defeated.
She hoped to see a day when every woman in her country would have access to education. It was this uncompromising determination that won her Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize.
Malala had established herself as a symbol for empowerment and education long before the shooting, a position she solidified with frequent appearances in documentaries and interviews. It was this status of growing recognition that raised insecurities within the Taliban movement and led to the attack.
The Taliban hoped that this attack would set an example for any women seeking to achieve Western notions of empowerment.
However, a week after the attack, Malala had successfully become a household name throughout much of South Asia, with tens of thousands taking to the streets to show solidarity with her vision.
As the news of Malala’s remarkable recovery continued to dominate international headlines, the Western Hemisphere felt shock, grief and hope, all at the same time, with artists like Madonna dedicating songs and messages to the child activist.
As the world rallied behind Malala, tributes paved the way for a greater awareness and the fulfillment of her dream. A Malala fund was initiated by diverse groups that aimed to raise funds to help women all over the world get better access to education. Dozens of other similar trust funds were set up to carry on the fight Malala had started.
Earlier this month, after recovering from successful skull surgery, Malala appeared in front of the world for the first time since the shooting. She spoke with remarkable eloquence and thanked the world for the support and reiterated her struggle for greater empowerment.
Whereas the fight for global education for women has just begun, Malala has filled millions of hearts with optimism and activism. Perhaps no one better reflects this sense of optimism than Malala’s classmate, who said, “Every girl in Swat is Malala. We will educate ourselves. We will win. They can’t defeat us.”
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