A Celebration of Malala on International Day of the Girl
When I started Modeltypeface, I was quite worried that no one would read it and I’d look a bit silly.
Today is International Day of the Girl and I just wanted to congratulate and celebrate one of the most inspiring figures to emerge in recent years, Malala Yousafzai, aged 17, who has just jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize with Kailash Satyarthi for their tireless campainging for the rights of children and young people.
If you want to oppress a group of people, you need to disenfranchise and disempower them. One of the quickest, easiest ways to do this is to remove their access to education. Malala has helped bring to the forefront the very real and very serious oppression of children – especially girls – worldwide.
I know that many of us found school a bit boring and pointless, but even if you didn’t leave with thirteen A*s, you took away a lot. You learnt to socialise and communicate with other boys, girls and adults as well as learning the building blocks of society’s knowledge and various cultures’ belief systems. Simply travelling to and from school, (no matter how arduous) gives you independence. Knowledge gives you power; the ability to stand up for yourself when you feel you are wronged, and to stand up for others too. Power gives you passion, persistence and the desire to follow what you know is right.
In taking away a child’s right to education you remove any hope for a decent career, and you take away their potential to grow in their courage and independence. They won’t learn to stand up for themselves or others, nor can they develop in the way that we are able to, deciding what we want for our own future. They cannot become masters of their own destiny. This is why child labour can occur. It facilitates the continued practice of FGM. It allows child brides to be married to men four times their age, becoming pregnant as soon as their periods start and dying in childbirth. It means that 50% of a country’s population – the women – are further disempowered and will pass that on to their children, their daughters.
Children are seen as less articulate, their words and actions carrying less gravitas than adults. But children are very often adults without the prejudice, cynicism and manipulative ability – think The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – and Malala’s words and actions show that she is capable of saying, doing and symbolising much more than others twice her age.
For starters, instead of showing the side of Islam that certainly exists, but doesn’t represent all Muslims worldwide in our media:
We see an intelligent, articulate Muslim girl who has been celebrated by the word’s dignitaries and keenest minds.
Pakistani Muslim Malala sharing her prize with Indian Hindu Kailash Satyarthi is a heartening and important sight to see. Though their countries have a stormy relationship, both highlight the need to fight for education and rights for a young population as well as fighting the extremism that would see them both oppressed, no matter what side of the border they lie, or which God or Gods they choose to worship.
We hold Malala as a symbol of unity, strength, courage and intelligence simply by living the life that she has so far. However she more than backs up this prestige with her articulate words, integrity and tireless campaigning. So congratulations to Malala – the spirited Nobel Peace Prize winner who has had to fight harder than many of us to show that neither gender, age nor race should ever stop you expressing who you are, and what you stand for.
Malala has written a book, I Am Malala, available here
For more information on International Day of the Girl, go here: http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/girl-child