On October 9, 2012, 15 year old Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by Taliban fighters. She was targeted because of her activism for female empowerment and children’s education; the brand of fundamentalist Islam to which the Taliban adheres makes no room for educated and empowered women. Malala was accused of espousing “Western thinking” for an online post criticizing the Taliban’s ban on educating females. She was lucky enough to be transported to Britain in time to receive adequate medical attention, and after cochlear implants and skull reconstructions, she is now in stable condition and goes to school in the U.K.
Now, Malala is writing a book, set to release this Fall. Her goal is to be “part of the campaign to give every boy and girl the right to go to school.” A major reason why school is so important for children is because a basic education allows people to read and write, which enables them to find jobs and learn new skills. In countries like Afghanistan, educating girls is especially important because of the numerous ways in which society is biased against them. 90% of Afghan women are illiterate. One Afghan woman dies every 2 hours from childbirth. Afghan women have life expectancies of 44, lower than almost any other group in the world.
Part of the way in which women are kept under society’s thumb is through child marriage. Over half of Afghan girls are married before the age of 10; over 80% of these marriages are pre-arranged or forced. When a girl is married early in this manner, her education ends. She will likely become pregnant as early as physically possible, and will suffer a drastically higher risk of dying as a result. Child wives are routinely subject to verbal, psychological, and physical abuse at the hands of their husbands; there is often no respite in tribal justice with councils dominated by men.
Malala refuses to let her efforts go in vain. She is committed to getting an education to every child around the world—male or female. Her book, as she says, is the way she can “tell my story, but it will also be the story of 61 million children who can’t get education.”
– Jake Simon
Sources: New York Times, Trust in Education