The Blog

Shot for Wanting to Learn

Since the age of 11 years old, Malala has been taking a stand and speaking out against her oppressors, and is the first person in Pakistan to be awarded the National Youth Peace Prize.

Right now, in a hospital bed in Birmingham, a truly remarkable and brave teenage girl is fighting for her life.

Malala Yousafzai, from the Swat Valley in Pakistan, where the Taliban have banned girls from attending school a number of times, is a political activist, campaigning for women's rights and, in particular, promoting education for girls.

Since the age of 11 years old, Malala has been taking a stand and speaking out against her oppressors, and is the first person in Pakistan to be awarded the National Youth Peace Prize.

On 9th October 2012, Malala was on her way home from school when she was shot in the head by gunmen. Unbelievably, Malala wasn't instantly killed, and thankfully, she was stable enough to come to the UK to receive specialist treatment.

When I first heard of this terrible incident, I thought it was somewhat ironic that it took place only a couple of days before the International Day of the Girl, on October 11th.

Pushed forward by Plan, a global children's charity, whose ambitions include 'securing the education of girls', campaigned extensively for the world to recognise that 75 million girls are currently denied an education, and in December 2011, the United Nations took notice and declared that October 11th would be the International Day of the Girl.

All around the world there are girls fighting for their right to go to school, and as awful as Malala's situation is, unfortunately it isn't unique. Many girls and young women live in fear for speaking out about their rights. Reading Plan's 2012 report 'The State of the World's Girls' it is clear that there is a whole myriad of issues that prevent girls from accessing education, and that there is a lot that needs to be done.

Malala's story has certainly made the headlines because of her public profile. In January 2009, Malala began writing an anonymous blog for the BBC, which apparently she did by hand-writing notes and passing them to a journalist (how brave and courageous is that?).

Through her blog, Malala described how the local schools were destroyed when the Taliban banned girls from attending them, and how her home town of Mingora soon became a ghost town. That same year saw a peace-deal of sorts, and Malala took part in a documentary for the New York Times called Class Dismissed, in which she said,

"I must be a politician to save this country. There are so many crises in our country. I want to remove these crises."

Without getting into the politics of the situation, morally there is no justification whatsoever for shooting a child, or anyone for that matter, because they want to go to school.

I simply cannot begin to understand what life has been like for Malala, or what is must be like to fear assassination for wanting to learn.

First and foremost, Malala must have time to recover. But then what?

What's going to happen to this admirable girl, her family and the cause?

I plan to keep a close eye on this story, and next year I will most certainly be paying special interest to the International Day of the Girl, not just to raise awareness of such struggles, but also to celebrate the inspirational courage that many girls, and their supporters, are prepared to demonstrate, in trying to make it a fairer world for everyone.