Malala and I are both teen girls who are the eldest of three, but the similarities end there. I live here in the United States and my family and I are able to make choices about my education. In fact all girls in the USA are entitled to an education. In Pakistan, where Malala lives, her family cannot make any choices about her schooling because it is illegal for girls to go to school there. Malala broke the law and went to school, and for that, and her speaking up, she was shot by the Taliban. Thankfully she is expected to recover, but the Taliban has stated they will come after her if she survives.
According to CNN news, the Taliban claimed that Malala "ignored their warnings, and she left them no choice." Her family never thought about getting her security because they just did not think that the Taliban would stoop so low as to target her. Since the shooting last month, thousands of people around the world have sent the teenage campaigner messages of support via social media. Pakistani politicians led by the president and prime minister condemned the shooting, which the US state department has called barbaric and cowardly.
Malala has been standing up to the Taliban since she was 11 when she started writing a blog on BBC under a false name. She’s been blogging and advocating for girl’s rights for education. She is actually thinking about changing her name to her writing name (Gul Makai) because her real name, Malala Yousafzai, means grief stricken. Malala’s shooting has brought attention to the struggle of girls in Pakistan. According to an article in The Guardian, today in Pakistan nearly 60% of school-age children can't read. Girls fare the worst. Pakistan is second in the global ranking of out-of-school children. Thirty percent of Pakistanis live in extreme educational poverty having received less than two years of education.
“I have the right of education,” Malala said in a 2011 interview with CNN. “I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up.” Traditionally in Pakistan, women are considered an asset of males of the family. So these males are responsible for making decisions about their lives. In most cases, males do not allow their sisters or daughters to go to schools or universities. As an American girl, I cannot imagine having to wait for a male to go outside, or not having the right to go to school.
These are the types of challenges school age girls, and women, have to deal with in Pakistan. "We talk about equality and women's rights and welfare at the policy level, but what is the strategy, especially for poor girls living in remote areas? We must educate these girls – then you are automatically ensuring that their health improves and that later on they have fewer unplanned pregnancies." said Maryam Bibi who is founder and Chief Executive on Khewendo Kor, which focuses on the development of women, children and strong families in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan.
Unfortunately, some families do not like their daughters to study in co-education institutes thus depriving them of higher education. Parents do not want girls’ education. However according to Kainat, one of Malala’s friends who was also shot, "Girls' education here is more important than boys' because boys can do any sort of work. However, girls can't just do any sort of job. Girls must have respectful jobs so that they can feel secure."
Education is the right of every human being, but unfortunately in Pakistan, girls are still deprived of this inalienable right. Education is the only tool that can break the long cycle of oppression, abuse, and poverty of girls. It has the power to change societies. Educated girls are more aware of their rights. More girls participating in the economy and ruling offices would lead to a better world today as well as in future generations.
What I find unbelievably incomprehensible is that Pakistan seems to live in the dark ages and men seem to think they have this right to choose for the women in their lives which is just wrong. Yet, almost every country in the world considers education of every person, female and male alike to be a basic right. It's sad and scary that girls in Pakistan have to fight for this right that I have and alot of times take for granted. However their bravery and courage is uplifting and inspiring, and gives me hope for the world’s future.