Have you heard the name Malala? If you haven’t, perhaps you recognize her face from the cover of Time Magazine, from the podium where she accepted The Nobel Peace Prize, or from multiple television broadcasts of her speaking to The United Nations?
Malala Yousafzai, is the young school girl who was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in 2012, for the outrageous offense of believing that she as a female should be allowed to go to school. As she traveled to school with friends, a masked gunmen boarded their school bus and asked for Malala by name. She was then shot with a single bullet that went through her head, shoulder, and neck. After many weeks recuperating in intensive care, Malala captured the hearts and minds of people all over the world – as she became the very human face of the real struggle for girls to be educated all over the world.
(Painting by Jennifer G. Cahoon)
I recently had the chance to be part of a very special phone call with Malala herself, and the experience is one I will cherish for years to come. Malala is still so young, and yet she seems to speak with an otherworldly wisdom. Her speech is gentle and measured – yet her words are passionate and fierce.
On the eve of a documentary movie coming to theaters about her life, Malala spoke about her life and what she wishes for the future.
When asked if she ever considered staying silent, staying home from school to try to be safe from the Taliban’s threats – Malala said she considered it. She said she didn’t know if her voice would make any difference. But she felt she couldn’t stay silent. That she had to do what was right, and that it was her “responsibility to do it.”
What advice does Malala have for young people who find themselves having to stand up for what’s right, when they are surrounded by those ready to go along with the status quo?
“You have to believe in yourself. Be the change. Change does not just come.”
One of the most touching moments of the phone call with Malala, was when she was asked what parents could do to help support their children’s confidence and love of learning the way her father and mother have supported hers. Malala said her father likes to tell people not to ask him what he did, but what he did not do. Malala says what her father did not do “was clip my wings.”
But having an indomitable spirit doesn’t mean Malala never has a bad day. She says on difficult days during her recovery she was “strengthened” by receiving thousands of cards and well wishes from all over the world. She says she reads them all. And they make her feel she’s not alone, and that “we are all together” in this. “This dream that I have – that each child can go to school – can come true!”
How you can help:
1) Let your own voice be heard. All girls deserve 12 years of free, safe, quality education. Even girls in countries with conflict! Sign the Petition.
2) Donate to The Malala Fund, helping girls in Pakistan, Nigeria, Kenya and Syrian refugee girls in both Lebanon and Jordan to get back to school.
3) Pick up your books and your pens. According to Malala “they are our greatest weapons!”
You can help spread Malala’s message of education for all, by using the hashtags #HeNamedMeMalala #WithMalala. And by seeing the movie “He Named Me Malala.”
Watch the Movie Trailer Now – In Theaters October 2015.
For more information on the work of the The Malala Fund: https://www.malala.org/
Soon to come – a review of the movie “He Named Me Malala.”