Millions of young girls throughout the world suffer hostility, deprivation, and abuse of every kind because of their efforts towards education. I was one of them.
Having been born a girl into an almost feudal European family during the Second World War, there were very few opportunities to receive an education. I first attended school at the age of 9, and I was a very curious child who wanted to know everything. From the very first day, though, it was a struggle for me to continue because of the views of my family members. My grandfather, uncles, father, and even some of my aunts discouraged me from going, saying, "Good girls stay home and tend to family needs. Only bad girls go to school, where they learn to smoke and wear short skirts!" I remember my grandfather would cruelly beat me if he thought my dress was too short. He would constantly pressure me to drop out; every day, every month and every year, it was always the same - but I knew within my heart that I was doing the right thing.
In the beginning, I was very lucky because my primary and secondary education was free. I excelled at learning and as I completed my basic classes, I knew I wanted to continue with higher classical studies. The closest school that offered these advanced courses was in the city of Split, which was 25 kilometers away. The bus ticket I would need to travel to this school cost 1400 dinars. That was a very large sum for my family who had very little money - hardly enough to buy our daily bread! To earn the money for my trips, I worked as many jobs as I could and saved every cent I made. I was busy seven days a week: my school was held Monday through Saturday, and on Sundays I would knit jumpers for my neighbors and work every extra job I could find.
I saved enough money for my classes in Split and eagerly started the next chapter in my education. There were five other girls who attended the higher education classes with me, but one by one, the difficulties and intolerance they encountered forced them each to drop out. I was the only one who finished.
Through my hardships, pain, hunger, and lack of sleep, I fought on and earned my education. As a result, I learned a magic language in my communist country: English. Because of it, I met my husband and we started our life together. My education unlocked many doors that would have otherwise stayed eternally sealed. To this day, my family and I will never forget the importance of education, especially for women, as we strive to continually support educational efforts in impoverished areas.
Anyone can count seeds in an apple - but who can count the apples in a seed? Malala, my heart goes out to you today. You are an inspiration to all those working for educational rights, and the blessings of women all over the world are directed to you. We hope you get better, for you are a great leader - and a great seed for the world.
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