Last Wednesday (October 10) was International Day of the Girl. It got some attention but not much. What got even less attention, until today, was that the day before International Day of the Girl, 14- year old Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for her role in campaigning for the right of education for girls.
The details I’m sure will now be familiar to most of us. On her way back from school in Mingora in the Swat valley, two armed men stopped her van with about a dozen other girls in it. One of them got into the van and asked which girl was Malala. When she was pointed out, the gunman fired three shots at her: one hitting her in the head and the others injuring two other girls. Malala has been in intensive care ever since and today has been flown to the UK to receive more specialist, ongoing treatment.
When she was eleven, Malala began blogging for BBC Urdu and kept a diary about life under the Taliban in the Swat valley. You can read some extracts of it here. Although she wrote under a pseudonym, her identity became known and she started receiving death threats, culminating in the attach in her school van.
In this one girl, we see in concentrated form, an issue that has serious global implications. It is shocking to discover that every year, ten million girls leave education to become child brides and never return to school. Globally, 32 million girls are not receiving a primary school education. Malcolm X is well known for having said, ‘If you educate a man you educate one person; if you educate a woman you educate and liberate a nation’, and that is more true today than it ever was. We live in a world of gross inequality, in which some countries will pay upwards of $100,000 to school their children whilst much of the world invests just $400 per child: 250 times less and I, for one, am not prepared to live in such a world without trying to play my part in seeing that change.
The shocking shooting of Malala has led to international outrage and that outrage must lead to action. Each one of us can do something about this: we can all play our part, however small it will seem, and I urge you to think about what you could do. Here are some suggestions:
1. You can pray. Pray for Malala and for her recovery; pray for her safety in hospital and that no action is able to be taken on the new threat by the Taliban to target her again. Pray for her school friends who witnessed such an atrocious attack and for the other two girls who were injured. Pray for the Pakistani government that they will have the guts to condemn this act outright. Pray for Gordon Brown that he will be kept safe after his public response to this attack. Pray that good will come out of this situation.
2. You can add your voice to those who are speaking out about this situation. A global petition has been launched by Gordon Brown and Ban Ki Moon, in support of the work that they are doing through the Education First campaign. Through adding your name to the petition you will strengthen their voice as they call on national leaders to make good on promises to put every child in school and improve the quality of learning.
3. Support the work of Day of the Girl. Register to receive their information and think about what you could do through your school/church/work to raise awareness of these issues.
4. If you have children, bring them up to appreciate the education they receive and instil in them a desire to dedicate their lives to making this world a more equal place.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this blog and any other ideas you might have on how we can respond and support the cause for which Malala was attacked.