Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Ordinary circumstances: Extraordinary consequences

When Malala Yousafzai was announced as the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize (another winner was Kailash Satyarthi, a children's rights activist from India), the whole world focused its attention towards her. She is the youngest Nobel Laureate as she was only 17 at that time; she was recognized for her cause to protect the right of all children to education.

There were mixed views upon her winning the Prize. However people wanted to know more about her. Whether somebody likes her or not she has become an international figure. But who is Malala? She writes her story in "I am Malala."

Malala is just a Pakistani girl like millions of other girls of her time and space born in a Sunni Muslim family, but a huge difference between her and others is that she got a very understanding father while others did not. Malala's father was very passionate about improving the quality of education; to serve this purpose he used to run his own school. While growing up Malala's playground was the school's classrooms. She started her schooling in her father's school itself. Her father was pretty aware that life was harder for women in their society so he was determined to educate Malala in a good way. He used to say, "I will protect your freedom, Malala. Carry on with your dreams."

On the other hand, there were people who used to see girls' schools as haram (against the religion). A man even tried to persuade Malala's father, " Girls should not be going to school. A girl is so sacred she should be in purdah (veil), and so private that there is no lady's name in the Quran as God doesn't want her to be named." Thank god, he would never listen to such people as he knew the truth.

When Malala was ten years old the Taliban came to their valley, Swat. With this, a lot of unnecessary problems were created. For instance, people were ordered to throw their TVs, DVDs and CDs and the Taliban would set fire on them. Only the Radio Mullah was allowed, and all music except for Taliban songs was declared haram. As the Talibs were against girls' education, many parents started to take their daughters out of schools; some teachers even refused to teach girls. But nothing scared Malala's father and his determination encouraged Malala to continue her schooling.

During that time a lot of killing, bomb blasting and suicide bombing were happening, so people were frightened and they felt unsafe. The same would apply to Malala's family as well. Malala would ask her father, "Are you scared now?" and he would reply, "At night our fear is strong, Jani (love), but in the morning, in the light, we find our courage again. We must rid our valley of the Taliban, and then no one has to feel this fear".

A turning point came into Malala's life when no female teachers and girl students at her school agreed to write a diary about life under the Taliban because their families considered the act too dangerous. In fact this offer had come from a BBC radio correspondent based in Peshawar. Apparently no one was ready to share their experience, so Malala stood up with her determination, "Education is our right just as it is our right to sing." Obviously, her father allowed her to raise her voice via the diary. As soon as her diary entries started to appear on the BBC Urdu blog the world people began to learn about the Swat predicament under the Taliban.

On the one hand the Taliban were banning and burning down the schools; the father-daughter team of Malala was busy campaigning for children's right to education in different parts of the country. Malala would frequently be seen, heard or read in the media with her strong voice. Soon she was recognized as an activist for the right to education. As a result she was in the hit list of the Taliban. At that time she was just 11-12 years old. Perhaps it was for sure Malala was shot by a Taliban gunman on 9 October, 2012 while she was coming home on a bus after school. From this point on people have been following Malala's life .

Malala gives a hope to every girl that she can be another Malala if she gets unconditional parental support at right time and in a right way.