A Prospect Of Peace

In a world where the names of teenagers like Harry Styles and Kendall Jenner are the most widely recognized, I for one am satisfied to note that Malala Yousafzai’s has also joined the mix.

Malala was fourteen years old when the Pakistani Taliban shot her in the head and neck when she dared to speak out about girls’ right to education. The assassination attempt came after Malala’s various attempts through online and news media to alert the world about the repressive circumstances in her home of Swat Valley, where the Taliban was destroying schools in her area. She was flown to a hospital in the United Kingdom where she made a full recovery.

Today, Malala continues to speak out about the right to education for children everywhere, but she has a much bigger platform.

Not only has she met with President Barack Obama, his family and the Queen of England, she has received numerous awards and honors, including honorary citizenship from Canada, and, most recently, a nomination for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

While awards and press coverage can sometimes only be as substantial as smoke and mirrors, I believe Malala’s aim is true and she has struck a chord with the Western world in spreading her ideas about female education.

Everyone knows her story and her face, and she has galvanized discussion and steps towards children’s education worldwide.

Of course, questions remain: will her dreams will be realized, and just how much action will be put forth to secure a better future for children everywhere? But whether or not the talk is only talk, I believe that it is better than the silence that Malala, her peers and children in various parts of the world have suffered from. Malala is succeeding in her role of spreading awareness. But awareness is only the first step, and now it is up to others to adjust their actions accordingly.

Despite, or perhaps because of, her new beloved status, some have called Malala a Western puppet.

Some of her fellow Pakistani citizens are not convinced that Malala is the most informed candidate for a representative of the hardships in her homeland and not likely to return now that she has been showered with praise and gifts. The implication is that her Pakistani roots are being overshadowed by her prominence in the West, and she is allowing and encouraging this turn of events due to the publicity and gratifications she is receiving in return.

Considering the inception of Malala’s activism was certainly not rooted in fame and money, I am not inclined to believe that they are the primary motivating factors for her now.

Surely, awards and free favors will not change the world, but they will not change her mind either. It is reasonable to keep in mind that there are many, many more activists in Pakistan who will go unrecognized and unrewarded; Malala is using her chance as a person in a better position to address a wider audience in addition to the work of her people back home, which has always been her intent.

 

Karam Johal is a fourth-year women’s studies major and can be reached at johalk@uci.edu.