If you'd asked me about Malala Yousafzai a month ago, I might have shrugged in ignorance. Now however, it's a name I don't think I'll forget for a while. It seems that the young schoolgirl has captured the attention of both the UK and Pakistan so much, that last Tuesday she was shot in the head by members of the Taliban. Apparently she was the intended target. She's fourteen years old.
Malala has become something of a child celebrity; but for much more significant reasons than that she has a particularly good singing voice, or that she could become the next big star actor. Aged 11, Malala Yousafzai gained attention when she started writing a diary for BBC Urdu, about life under the Taliban. She cleverly used a different pen name as she wrote about the suffering caused by militants who had taken control of the Swat Valley in 2007. She even, rather emotively, described how they ordered girls' schools to close, explaining the hurt she felt 'on opening my wardrobe and seeing my uniform, school bag and geometry box.' (Feb 2009)
For the UK this was a rare and revealing insight into the life of a child under Taliban influence. For Malala, it was a chance to show the world what her life was really like, and to campaign for something she felt strongly about - girls' rights to education. She began to appear on television, stating that education was a fundamental right for every child. She publicly advocated female education and was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize by the The KidsRIght Foundation in 2011. For many in Pakistan, this young girl has become a symbol of resistance - but at a dangerous cost. The Taliban have said they will target her again.
What I can't quite get my head around is Malala's age. She's only fourteen! She's at an age where she should still be enjoying her childhood, but instead she's become something of a national symbol. One might even say that she has become something of an enemy figure to the Taliban. She's recently inspired protests, where people have turned out to show their condemnation at the Taliban's actions, whilst various senior figures around the world, like the UK's Foreign Secretary, have spoken out about the attack. This young girl is important.
But why should I keep pointing out her age? I suppose that, when you think of Malala's age in Western terms, it's deeply shocking and unnerving that she could even be thought of as a target for such a deadly attack. Yet in Pakistan, young girls are forced to grow up quick. The median age of marriage for women is 19 years old, but it's legal from the age of 16. (Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre [ARROW]) It's quite a different culture.
So, with that considered, why on earth shouldn't this young girl speak out? Her parents actively encouraged Malala to get involved with the BBC's blog program, and I'm sure, despite the horror of the recent attack, they wouldn't regret that decision. In exchange, they should be proud of their daughter - so brave to find and speak her own voice against such an oppressive group. Her age quite frankly is inconsequential - although some may find younger voices somewhat naive when it comes to expressing views on politics or even societal opinions, it's hard to have that judgement here. When something is going this far wrong, you don't have to be an adult (who, may I add, can still have the capacity to be naïve) to understand it, or to know that it's wrong.
Some things can't be taught by age alone.
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