Malala – a young heroine from my perspective

This map I made as a teacher in my education paper about India and Pakistan from 2002- 2003. If I had had a picture of the young girl Malala Yousafzai, born on July 12th 1997, I would have used that instead, but the map above may in this case represent several aspects concerning the young heroine Malala Yousafzai. She is a Pashtun girl from the city of Mangora in the Swat district of the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province in Pakistan. She has since her early school years been fighting for girls’ right to education in opposition of the Taliban mysogyn policies and hatred of female education. My map can also represent that the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka has a long and proud history and must be respected and revered for the many ideas, innovations, beliefs, buildings and traditions that have evolved there. They still do. This does not mean that people are better or worse on the Indian sub-continent, simply that humans are humans, irrespective of where we grow up. I am not going to use Malala Yousafzai to point a finger at people in central Asia claiming that they are worse people than westerners, because they are not. All humans globally and all nations have good and bad aspects to deal with, independent of skin colour, gender, age, religious or political convictions or social background. This we must keep in mind even when we criticize foul events.

Malala Yousafzai is daughter of Ziauddin Yousafzai, a poet, educational activist and school owner of the chain of schools called Khushal Public Schools. Already at a very early age Malala proved to be extremely gifted and her father allowed her to stay up late at night discussing politics.In September 2008 Malala started debating in public and Ziauddin took her to Peshawar. She was impressed by the city, but the Taliban banned girls from going to school in the Swat Valley, and women are severely oppressed because of their gender. The Taliban shut down and destroyed girls’ schools and women and girls were harrassed, beaten, threatened or killed if they opposed the Taliban. In January 2009 Malala was given the possibility to start blogging via BBC Urdu, thanks to her father and his contacts. Malala described under a pseudonym how it was to be a girl in the Swat district, her fire for girls’ education, her fears of the Taliban and different millitary interventions. The following summer New York Times decided to make a documentary about this girl at the same time as the Pakistani army fought the second battle of Swat. Killing and mutilation as in all wars. Malala Yousefzai began to become famous. She gave interviews at the age of 12 for both newspapers and TV stations, became chair person of District Child Assembly Swat and on December 2011 she was rewarded with Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize. Desmond Tutu also nominated this brave school girl for the International Children’s Peace Prize in October 2011. Several high-ranking celebreties, e.g. the Canadian Minister of Citizenship supported nominating Malala Yousefzai for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

Malala’s national and global fame, and her voice against Taliban misogyn oppression and for girls’ right to education made the Taliban supporters furious and in the summer of 2012 the Taliban decided to assassinate her and her father. On October 9th 2012 Malala was on a bus on her way home from school when a man came in and angrily asked which girl was Malala. When he found that out he shot her in the left side of her head and neck, and two other girls too. The first weeks she was in a critical condition. Three days after the shooting 50 islamist clerics in Pakistan sent a fatwa against those who had tried to kill Malala and her father Ziauddin. Malala was later sent to a hospital in England for further treatment and she’s still alive today, luckily. The Taliban have stated that they will continue keeping her and her father on their death list. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched a United Nation’s petition in Yousafzai’s name “I am Malala” that all children globally should be in school by 2015. The UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon declared November 10th as “Malala Day” in the same spirit. A petetion was personally given to Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zarchai.

When I was a teacher I had many pupils, both ambitious and not so ambitious of different ethnic, religious and social backgrounds. Sometimes we take many things for granted. In my country teachers’ profession and school have got lower and lower status. Learning, education is neglected and sneered at by too many. We have a school with a proud background though, but with severe problems because of the negligence. In Sweden we have, thanks to the Liberals, a school for all children since the middle of the 19th century, but our education system has in recent years been under attack from officals who dispise wider learning. Women got their right to vote in 1919 and went to election in Sweden for the first time in 1921. When I was teaching I had many good pupils, and girls not the least. I learned early on to revere and respect even young teen-age girls as well as grown-up women. The boys may be wild in Sweden, Pakistan and elsewhere, but most guys develop, become mature and good guys most of them. We men simply must learn to respect and love women in a good way, just as the opposite. We must learn from each other in affection and wisdom locally, nationally and globally. That’s why Malala’s heroic struggle in Pakistan is so valuable for us all.

Anders Moberg, January 4th 2013

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