Sunday, 13 October 2013

Malala Yousefzai, the cause celebre for women's education

Malala vs Taliban
Malala with her family at the British hospital: father, brothers and mothers in the foreground. Photo from SBS World service via Mindfulness Now

Malala Yousefzai, the 16 year old Pakistani activist from Swat Valley fighting for women and girls' education and a special speaker at UN, missed winning the Nobel Peace Prize. The award went to the nuclear organization responsible for inspecting and destroying Syria's nuclear weapons stockpile. However, the media interest in Malala has been resparked by her runner up status for Nobel Peace Prize. A year ago, Malala came to the world's attention and became a cause celebre after being shot twice in the head by the Taliban. Her facial nerves were damaged by the bullet and speaking was limited. As a child activist beginning at age 11, she fought non stop and bravely stood up to the Taliban's strict ban girls and women receiving an education in her hometown Mingora, Swat. Currently, the Pakistani military is fighting the Taliban to keep the organization out of Swat and from reimposing their oppressive rule. The Taliban's rule over Swat paralleled the methods they had applied to Afghanistan. Not only were women and girls deprived of an education, they and their families were also flogged, publicly punished and hung as a lesson to fellow residence of the city. The Pakistani army has been fighting a war against the Taliban since 2009 as part of the larger war in Afghanistan. The government has used amnesty and negotiation to avoid further terrorist attacks and violence occurring in the North Western Frontier province where Swat is located. The Swat Valley itself is regarded as a paradise on Earth with scenic mountain views, lush valleys and relative peace prior to the Taliban's arrival some three years ago. Despite the mainstream media's championing Malala's story of the brave girl standing up to terrorists and militants, some residence in Malala's hometown see Western media's admiration for her as a stooge or puppet serving as a reminder of the Taliban rule in Swat Valley. Malala's story has included a recently published book about her young life, numerous public appearances, interviews with mainstream news channels from BBC, CNN, NPR and Al Jazeera and spokeswoman for women's education. Furthermore, her image plays on the stereotype of white savior rescuing the brown woman or girl from harm by her fellow countrymen. Many Pakistani men and boys protested against Taliban and their attack on women long before Malala was well known in Western countries.. While Malala was given specialized and top notch medical treatment in Britain for her life threatening injuries, her fellow schoolmates who were also injured in the attack did not receive the same treatment. Nor did children who have been killed by American drones and bombings occurring in Swat Valley as well as Afghanistan and Yemen. Malala has insisted to her compatriots in her hometown that she is not a puppet of Western politicians nor is she seeking glory for herself but is fighting on behalf of all women and girls inside and outside of Pakistan. She has considered becoming a politician after her father who is her inspiration, hoped she would become a politician to continue her fight despite her non interest in politics. The Taliban has threatened on several occasions to kill Malala. She has responded to the threat by suggesting to meet and dialogue with the Taliban despite the dangers she faces from the Taliban.

Malala's Story: From New York Times

Malala speaking during World Youth Day at the UN on her 16th Birthday. Compliments of UN 

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