Friday, April 1, 2016

Malala Yousafzai: the girl who survived being shot by the Taliban

Imagine growing up not knowing day-to-day if you were going to be able to attend school.  You didn't know because you weren't sure if you'd have to stay home and take care of your siblings instead, or because you thought maybe you'd get caught on your way there and be punished for it.  Or, maybe your teachers were always coming and going, so it wasn't unusual for school to be canceled due to having no one to teach you.  It's also possible that the Taliban would close down your school, or that they would bomb it and get rid of it for good, hopefully at a time when no one was inside.

Many of us in the United States and other developed countries have no idea what any of that would be like.  We got to go to school every single day growing up.  We were forced to go, even!  We complained and we dragged our feet on our walk there.  Little did we know, we were some of the most fortunate children in the world.

There are over 60 million girls worldwide who are unable to attend school while growing up.  Some simply because of their gender.  Others because of war, famine, or responsibilities only adults should have.  Many of these girls would probably give anything to trade places with us. 

Malala Yousafzai is an 18 year old girl from Pakistan who loved learning dearly from early on in her life.  However, she was living under Taliban rule in northwest Pakistan, in a small town called Mingora in Swat Valley.  The Taliban began attacking girls' schools in Swat, and this made it increasingly difficult for girls to get an education.  Families began keeping their daughters at home out of fear.  Some, including Malala, chose to defy the Taliban and continue going to school. 

In early 2009 Malala began writing a blog under a pen-name, Gul Makai, for BBC Urdu.  In this blog, she described her experiences living under Taliban rule and she spoke out for the right of all girls and women to get an education.  At the end of 2009, her identity was revealed.

Malala was growing quite the public platform.  She gave many speeches and was becoming well-known throughout Pakistan.  She won the country's National Youth Peace Prize in 2011 and was also nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize in that year.

She was only 14 when she first learned of a death threat placed against her family by the Taliban.  Malala and her family were scared for the safety of both Malala and her father, who was also a well-known activist in the country.  They thought the threats were just that -- threats.

On October 9, 2012, Malala was on her way home from school when the bus she rode on slammed to a stop.  A man stepped onto the back of the bus, asked who Malala was, and when the other girls looked towards her, he shot Malala in the head.  The bullet traveled down to her neck, and two of her friends sustained injuries as well.  Malala was in critical condition and flown to a hospital in Peshawar.  She had to have a portion of her skull removed to reduce the swelling in her brain, and she was put into a medically induced coma.  She underwent many surgeries, and was ultimately transferred to Birmingham, England, for her safety and for medical care.  She was taken out of the medically induced coma in England and went through more surgeries and rehabilitation.  She was discharged from the hospital in January 2013 and was able to begin attending school in Birmingham in March 2013.

Can you imagine how terrifying it would be to return to school after being shot in the head and almost killed because of speaking out about that very thing?  I don't believe there are many people who would be brave enough to continue on the way Malala has.  She has proven that "one child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world."

Education is the answer.  We must advocate for our children to have the right to go to school.  We must help them get there.  So, I have started a fundraiser.  My goal is to raise $5,000 by the last day of 2016.  This will be hard, but I know it is possible.  The money will go to the Malala Fund, which was co-founded by Malala Yousafzai, with the goal of fighting for 12 years of education for all girls.  PLEASE consider donating.  Even the smallest bit will help.  If you don't think you can afford it, maybe trade eating out once this week or Netflix for this month for a $10 donation.  Anything will help.

To donate, click here.  It will only take a minute of your time.

Thank you in advance!