News / Solidarity and Sisterhood

Malala Yousafzai: A Courage That Endures

Image by Veronique de Viguerie courtesy of Getty Images.

Lindsey Addawoo

In a world where female Westerners combat the social structures of patriarchy, misogyny and sexism in the public sphere of everyday society, oftentimes our perceptions of what gender-based oppression includes can be at odds with the severity it holds in different parts of the world.

Such is the case for 14-year-old activist Malala Yousafzai, who was shot last week in Mingora, Swat Valley, Pakistan for publicly advocating for children’s rights in the country.

While on her way home from school, Taliban gunmen boarded Yousafzai’s school bus, demanded to know which child the activist was, then shot her in the head and neck, reported the Toronto Star.

Yousafzai remains in critical condition at a hospital in Peshewar.

Though doctors were able to remove the bullets from Yousafzai’s body, the implications of this shooting will undoubtedly have an effect on the community, the country and the world at large.

The Taliban have been quoted from various news sources to have called the young activist’s work an “obscenity”.

Usually, this is a world used to describe something that is offensive or destructive to a community, but in the Yousufzai’s case, this meant advocating for children’s – and more specifically female children’s rights – to accessible education.

Yousafzai has been a Taliban target for quite some time. She anonymously documented her experiences in a blog for the BBC in 2009 when her father fought against Taliban orders to keep the last school that allowed female education open.

Receiving worldwide recognition for her efforts in various media sources, Yousafzai quickly became a person of intrigue when media outlets such as the New York Times made her the voice of their documentaries.

Unfortunately, however, Yousafzai’s popularity quickly drew opposition.

Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said in an interview with the New York Times that “[Yousafzai] has become a symbol of Western culture…she was openly propagating it.”

Yousafzi’s hometown, Mingora, was itself a site for Taliban extremists to install fear in residents through terror and violence by building a base in the city. In 2008, Yousafzai decided to speak out publicly.

“You may stop me from going to school, but you will not stop me from learning” said the then-10-year old at a press conference in Peshawar.

The Taliban’s insidious acts against the young woman are being fought against throughout the Mingora community. According to the Toronto Star, “several hundred residents went to the local hospital [to] donate blood.”

Quite clearly, the Taliban is not a microcosm of Pakistan’s gender-based beliefs. Even the Prime Minister of Pakistan himself, PM Raja Pervez Ashraf, urged Pakistani citizens to denounce the extremist mindset behind the attacks.

“She is our daughter” Prime Minister Ashraf stated.

In 2011, Yousafzai was awarded the International Children’s Peace Prize. She previously received Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize from former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

“We [find] her to be very bold, and it inspire[s] every one of us” said Yousafzai’s classmate Fatima Aziz. M

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