When school girl cum global phenomenon and Nobel Laureate, Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban at noon time on October 9 2012, it was no doubt a cowardice act by a group of men with a sinister agenda to silence a girl whose voice has been vociferous against the latter’s insistence to stop the girl child from having education and a right to aspire for a better future. On this regular day, Malala was on her way back from school with her classmates, when the messenger of death masked in a gunman’s costume waylaid the kids and asked after Malala. Once her target was introduced, he cocked his gun and fired three shots: one journeyed beneath the victim’s epidermis and sank into her shoulder. She could easily have drawn her last breath that moment, and if she did, the world would have condemned it and Malala would have attained martyrdom. But that was not all. Fate still had more in stock for the wunderkind.
Malala Yousafzai comes from a family that oversees a group of schools and she had been advocating for human right advocacy and education for women in the Swat valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of northwest Pakistan. This is where the Taliban had been making life unbearable, stopping young girls from attending schools. Not too many people will able to confront a band of insurgents armed with not just guns, but a morbid philosophy. But Malala at a tender age of 11 or 12 believed that she had two options: to speak and pay the supreme price with the bullets of the Taliban, or remain silent forever and have her dreams and indeed that of many other girls in Pakistan annihilated. She chose the former and started venting her reservations by blogging for BBC under a pseudonym— narrating what life feels like when you have Taliban watching your back and cherry-picking how to go about your life.
Her obscurity gave way for global interest when Adam B. Ellick, a NewYork Times journalist, made a documentary about her struggles and the Pakistani military intervention in the region. It won’t be long before she will be nominated for the Children’s Peace Price by Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu.
Malala’s recovery was nothing short of a miracle. Her battle for her life had started at a Pakistani Hospital before she was transferred to a military hospital in Birmingham, UK, where veterans with severe war injuries were treated. Her recovery gave prominence into the reason she was shot in the first place—the right for the girl child to aspire for a good life; her right to education and dignity. Her adversity gave her the veneer of legitimacy to be seen as an enigma for the struggle for freedom from human slavery and everything that had bedeviled the girl child and collectively, every woman. Recently, she was seen in London lending her voice to the bringing back of the girls who were kidnapped in Chibok, a Local Government Area of Borno State, Nigeria. When Malala speaks, the world listens.
It is however interesting or maybe ironical, to point that not everyone in Pakistan is rooting for this phenomenal young lady. In a nation that is starved of equality, educational opportunities, and has little to cheer about, the news of Malala winning the peace prize was treated like an information suited just for the classified adverts section of the newspaper. It has been reported that about 25 million children don’t have access to education and the girl child make up a colossal 60% of that figure. Again, it’s a fact that the plight that Malala has been agitating for, which is the plight of most girls in Swat and other regions of that society, is not felt by the elites who still have access to the best government-funded schools in the land. Some in the Bhutto dynasty are even Oxford trained. Recent poles however, have also shown, that it is in those elite climes that you wouldn’t find many fans of Malala. Other Pakistanis are simply disinterested and even feel that there are more compatriots worthy to wear that crown than a school girl that Western forces have connived with to make the next big thing. There are some conspiracy theorists who have also claimed that the whole Malala story was a big hoax in spite of the fact the Pakistani military claimed recently to have apprehended those who tried to gun her down and Taliban had since claimed responsibility.
While Malala was receiving instruction in Chemistry class at her school in Birmingham, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced that the Nobel Peace Prize 2014 is to be awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.” The latter who hails from India has been lauded for his long fight for the child’s right cause and for maintaining Mahatma Gandhi’s tradition of spearheading several peaceful protests and demonstrations against the exploitation of children for financial enrichment.
As the youngest Nobel Laureate ever was awarded, only 17, I marveled if fate has not connived with those who tried to shoot down this brave, intelligent and compassionate young lady whose aura radiates the peace that she passionately talks about. The Taliban had purported to keep her muted forever and had shot her—but with hindsight, they would probably regret that they had shot her to glory! You don’t plan to get shot by Taliban and become a global phenomenon, do you?
Sharing the Nobel peace with Indian child right’s activist was also something laudable and strategic as that may help foster a better relationship between India and Pakistan– Malala already hinted that they will be working together to achieve peace and had extended an open invitation to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi to the award ceremony proper in Oslo, Norway, come December 10, 2014.
My reflections on Malala’s journey would have been incomplete without mentioning Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala’s father. Here is a fine gentleman who is an epitome of proper fatherhood. One would suspect that he was perturbed by the plight of the girl child in Pakistan and had supported her daughter when it was not the convenient thing to do. He didn’t lose site of the fact that the best legacy any parent can bequeath to their children is education and the knowledge that the children have human rights which are inalienable. He supported his daughter all the way—something both could have easily paid for with their lives. Credit must be allotted to Malala’s mother as well, and by extension, her siblings. Malala is no doubt a product of good parenting and a supportive family. I wish her all the best. She has affirmed my thinking lately that the voice of change lies in a new generation.
O.P. Philips is a freelance writer/entrepreneur. He is the author of The “OBAMA” in You! His new book, “What Football Teaches About Life” will be released soon.