I am certainly not the first person to write about I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. Published in late 2013, it is on many best-sellers lists, which is what prompted me to read it.
As the title outlines, this book is the autobiography of Malala Yousafzai, a young woman who, with her father, was an outspoken proponent of education for girls, particularly in her native Pakistan. The book opens with a prologue describing the story of her shooting, which happened in October 2012 when she was fifteen years old; the Taliban has claimed responsibility for targeting Malala. What follows is a description of the events leading up to the attack, outlining Malala’s life in Swat Valley, part of the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the history of Pakistan, a nation created on August 14, 1947 as a homeland for Muslims. Malala’s involvement with speaking for the education of all children is highlighted in particular, a subject about which both she and her father are passionate.
While Malala’s story impressed me and captured my heart, it was Malala’s father, a school owner who champions the education of girls, who stood out for me. Coming from a part of the world that often prizes sons over daughters, and does not always encourage the education of girls and women, Ziauddin Yousafzai was not only adamant that his daughter should receive an education, but was (and continues to be) a courageous advocate for the educational rights of all. Malala’s story would not be what it is without the father who cheered her on as she took up the cause of girls’ education, a cause that in the eyes of the Taliban that threatened their nation, was considered anti-Islam. (Malala often writes of how the Quran actually does not bar women from education).
This book was an excellent follow-up to my last read, Half the Sky. I certainly recommend it as not only an engaging story, but as a way to understand the challenges that face the issue of accessibility to education, especially for women and girls. In her epilogue, Malala states that
“around the world there are fifty-seven million children who are not in primary school, thirty-two million of them girls. Sadly, my own country, Pakistan, is one of the worst places: 5.1 million children don’t even go to primary school even though in our constitution it says every child has that right. We have almost fifty million illiterate adults, two thirds of whom are women, like my own mother. Girls continue to be killed and schools blown up…The most shocking attack was in June in the city of Quetta, when a suicide bomber blew up a bus taking forty pupils to their all-girls’ college. Fourteen of them were killed. The wounded were followed to the hospital and some nurses were shot” (p. 312).
Malala, now sixteen, miraculously survived being shot in the head, and now lives in Birmingham, England, where she was flown to receive further medical treatment. She is the youngest person to have ever been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and continues to campaign for access to education through the Malala Fund, a non-profit organization that champions community-led programs and education advocates all over the world.
In Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn outline how education is a major tool in the fight against poverty, maternal mortality and morbidity, the spread of disease, and the trafficking of girls. While education does not promise an end to the sorrows we face as a result of The Fall, it is a major step forward in caring for and extending God’s love to the “least of these.”
Jesus, show us how the church can be a part of bringing access to education to all. Show us how we can shine Your light into the world by being voices for the equality of men and women. Give me a heart to pray for those who do not have access to schooling, and those who do not know the great love You have for both Your sons and daughters.