A worldwide event has occurred in the past few months that has truly captured my attention and focused my passion. After reading several sources about the events, I feel a strong urge to express its impact on me.
If you were to put Malala Yousafzai and me side by side, you would see that we both have brown hair and dark eyes. We’re both young women, with small, round noses and petite frames.
However, after looking at our everyday lives, the similarities would cease to continue. Every morning, when I dress for school, I choose from a vast array of colorful clothing, and I dress without any concern for what I wear. Every morning, she longed to wear her pretty uniform or her colorful dresses, but was instead instructed to wear muted outfits, so as not to attract the attention of the men with the guns.
I sit in class amongst several male peers and I openly ask questions, answer teachers, confident and unafraid to display my knowledge. Malala was told that because of her gender, she was no longer allowed to attend school, her most beloved pastime.
I openly read and study my books in the library. Malala hid them under her shawl, and confidently reading all of the beautiful words when she and her passion for education were safe from the watchful eyes of the Taliban.
I walk home from school and see the crisp colorful autumn leaves of a beautiful upstate New York landscape. She stares at the dusty ground, avoiding the sickening image of a headless corpse, killed for defiance; or a group of crying refugees, forced to flee their homes with empty hands and empty souls.
I groan at my tedious biology homework. She starts a revolution.
I read about her unbelievable courage and was shocked that someone who was just a few years younger than I was able to disrupt the control over one of the most feared extremist groups in our modern era. Though her life was at stake, Malala stopped at nothing to chase after her one true passion – knowledge. In the her blog “Diary of a Pakistani Schoolgirl” which was published by the BBC, Malala wrote about the truth of the Taliban military operations and the event that dominated most of her entries and shook her world: the ban on girls education. “I felt hurt on opening my wardrobe and seeing my uniform, school bag and geometry box. Boys' schools are opening tomorrow. But the Taleban have banned girls' education.”
This issue was one that plagued Malala everyday. As a girl whose happiness revolved around the pursuit of knowledge, the threat of forced ignorance called her to action. Though she was still a little girl at the time, she wrote in her blog with the courage and voice of a revered and wise woman, displaying the truth about her circumstances with the utmost courage.
She stopped at nothing to uncover the truth, risking her life, surrendering her emotions to the whim of thousands of first world readers who can only begin to fathom the immensity of consternation that she went through every day. She had aspirations to become a doctor or a politician, go to school and change the world. With the confident, forthright attitude that she had, she could have made a true difference. A true step of courage for this young girl was finally releasing her true identity to her BBC readers and showing her face on the documentary directed by The New York Times, “Class Dismissed.” In this powerful video, Malala said, “They cannot stop me, I will get my education if it is in home, school or any other place” and she was often brought to tears at the thought of giving up her right to an education.
The Taliban presence in her city of Swat decreased significantly and to the great joy of Malala, the ban on education for girls was lifted and her school reopened. A hope was renewed in her as she returned her home and her beloved school. Life carried on.
That was, until the day that she sat on a school bus with her friends and a Talib boarded the bus, demanding to know the identity of the girl who had single handedly disrupted their unspeakable power. In writing her blog for the BBC and accepting the Pakistan Youth for Peace award as well as many others, Malala became a forthright, striking symbol of Taliban opposition. The mere fact that a small girl was speaking out and inspiring others to defy the sadistic authority was seen as a threat to the Taliban, who thrive off of their ability to evoke obedience through fear and bloodshed. Once her identity was known, she sat shaking in her seat as the Talib raised his gun and shot her in the head. After being in guarded condition in the hospital for days, and receiving further death threats from the Taliban, Malala was sent to a hospital on the United Kingdom.
I read the articles. Watched her short film. Studied her blog. And remained shocked at her courage and astounded by the response that she caused in the Middle Eastern world. Thousands of young girls gather for rallies, candlelit ceremonies, days of prayer and other movements to celebrate her astonishing valor and raise their voices against the oppression of women in Pakistan and other Middle Eastern countries.
Malala and I have vast differences. But after gaining a glimpse of who she is as person, I noticed one small unifying force between us. We both have a fervency to proclaim the truth. Though my passion is based on the desire to one-day yield the truth, Malala has already done so tenfold, making an enormous mark on world history and the movement for women’s education rights. I yearn to develop my own love and passion for the truth to a caliber that is modeled after hers. I felt a surge of inspiration from this young girl, who lives thousands of miles away and whom I had never even met. If Malala, a girl who is denied the plentiful educational opportunities that I have and who faces death threats and gunpoint can still write down the truth for the world to read, then I can write the facts for the greater good.
I have wanted to become a journalist for quite a few years and have taken pride in the small publications and successes that I have been a part of thus far. However, after reading Malala’s story, I finally know the kind of journalist that I want to be; the kind of courage and persistence that I want to have in everything that I do. The kind of honest writing that uncovers the truth or tells the story of silent sufferers. I may never face the same adversity in my career that she experienced in the beginning of her life, but I now know that no force should stand in the way of the truth. Malala’s story taught me, and will continue to teach me, about the importance of my future profession and the responsibility that I have to world to uncover the truth, regardless of the circumstances. Her story will continue as she recovers and dives back into her work as a social activist and an aspiring politician. In developing this passion for her admirable achievements, I know that throughout my life, her influence on my career and my character will never be silenced.
If the truth is masked and the world remains ignorant, then extremist groups who rob the comfort and safety of a silent, suffering nation reign supreme and the world becomes a little darker every day. Though my blog doesn’t reflect such pressing issues, I one day hope to harness what I have learned from Malala to make a difference in the world through my journalistic reporting. In a Newsweek story printed shortly after her attack, Malala as quoted as saying, “If the new generation is not given pens, they will be given guns by the terrorists. We must raise our voice.” The truth must always come out, even from small girls like Malala or me and I feel it is my calling to be an advocate for the truth, and no matter what it takes, fight the ignorance that rob so many from security. It is my duty to stand firm in the world and deliver the truth to the thousands that are silenced by gunshots and fear.