Reporter’s Diary: Why the world needs more Malalas

Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai might just be the catalyst that could bring about a sea change in the neighbouring nation, feels Shanta Saikia

e4m by Shanta Saikia
Updated: Oct 13, 2012 9:54 PM
Reporter’s Diary: Why the world needs more Malalas

This week has been full of news on digitisation of cable TV as the November 1 deadline nears. The disturbing news of sexual assaults in Haryana and the khap as well as political leaders’ knee-jerk and incredulous reactions to such heinous crimes added fuel to the fire of scams, corruption, illegal deals – no respite, no matter which news channel one turns to or which newspaper one picks up.

Amid all these news, one news almost got buried, but has now gained international attention – the shooting of a 14-year old schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai, in Pakistan’s Swat district by the Taliban on October 9, 2012. The girl is fighting for her life, even as entire Pakistan and the rest of the world pray for her speedy recovery.

What earned Malala the Taliban’s wrath is a very simple desire – education of girls and right to freedom of expression. At an age when most girls probably worry more about their next date or appearance or accessorising their outfits, Malala has been defying the Taliban’s diktat of closing down schools for girls and harbouring dreams of bringing about change in the system and in people’s thoughts.

While doing a Google search to know more about Malala, I was astounded to find no less than 40,800,000 search results! My search led me to an interview uploaded on YouTube, where she had given an interview in a programme called ‘Morning with Farah’ on one of the Pakistani channels. She showed remarkable poise, awareness, eloquence and extraordinary courage for someone so young.

Watch Malala Yousafzai’s interview

What struck me was her clarity of thought, the way she was putting across her views and a courage so rare. She has been defying the Taliban since the age of 11, when the diktat was issued to close down all schools for girls in Swat Valley in 2009. The brave girl not only continued going to school secretly, but also maintained a blog for BBC Urdu under the pseudonym Gul Makai, where she wrote about life in the shadow of the Taliban.

Recognising her fortitude and gumption, the Pakistani government conferred on her the first National Peace Award in December 2011. She was also nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by the advocacy group Kids Rights Foundation.

Malala’s shooting is no ordinary strike, but a message that Taliban wants to send out – to stifle all free thought, to keep girls and women locked inside homes and that the terror group still has a hold and significance. No wonder the shooting was ordered by one of the Taliban’s most feared commanders, Maulana Fazlullah, also known as Radio Mullah.

But the shooting has had the opposite impact, it has united the common people of Pakistan to stand up in defiance and shaken up the international community’s conscience. Girls in Swat Valley now say defiantly, “I am Malala”. Maybe this event will serve as the catalyst to bring about a change that Pakistan so desperately needs.

Maybe now people won’t consider their daughters as burdens here in India or elsewhere. Maybe now people will see what disastrous consequences the highly skewed sex ratio in Haryana in bringing. Maybe now some enthusiastic youngsters will consider bringing about a change in governance by joining politics and resuscitate a nation gasping for a fresh, new start.

Am I asking for too much?

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