The film entitled “He Named Me Malala” is an adaptation of the memoir of Malala Yousafzai called “My Name is Malala,” published in 2013. Malala was born on July 12, 1997. Her father Zia named his daughter after a young Afghan heroine who was killed in 1880 for her fight against oppression of women and the poor, a seemingly prophetic choice.
Malala Yousafzai - Wikimedia
Malala lived with her parents and two younger brothers in the Swat Valley in Pakistan. Malala’s father owned and operated a school for boys and Malala, from an early age, attended the school which was unusual since girls were not allowed to be educated. Even as a toddler, she spent time at the school, which became her home. Zia Yousafzai had suffered a stuttering stammer from his early days and overcame his disability to become a vocal advocate against injustices borne by citizens in Swat Valley. Malala’s own mother, Toor, although a beautiful woman, was illiterate, commensurate with the tradition of the times. Women from Swat always covered their face. Malala’s mother would say to her “Cover your face or people will think you are not a nice girl.”
Malala Writes a Blog for the BBC
In 2009, the BBC was seeking a way of covering the Taliban’s increased influence on the people of Swat. They decided that an anonymous blog from a local schoolgirl, explaining her life in Pakistan, would be an interesting feature. The parents of the young girl who was chosen for this purpose feared reprisals and would not allow their daughter to cooperate in the venture. Zia Yousafzai suggested that his 11-year-old daughter Malala was capable of writing the blog. Malala had a close relationship with her father who encouraged her to become educated and actually to seek a life as a politician rather than a doctor, which was Malala’s first career choice. He fueled her commitment to speak out for the rights of girls to achieve an education. Malala’s parents spoke freely about politics at the dinner table and Malala, an exceptionally bright young girl, was keenly interested in the discussions.
Nobel Peace Prize Recipients, 2014 - Wikimedia
Oppression by the Taliban
A Taliban militant named Maulana Fazlulla was prominent in the activities of banning television, music, education of young girls, and even shopping by women. Fazlulla was known as the Radio Mullah and a prominent advocate of the Taliban movement. At one point, he announced Zia Yousafzai’s name on the radio. Malala feared for her father’s life. In the towns, the Taliban would gather up books and CD’s and burn them. They did not want the citizens to watch television. The militants would come right in someone’s house, take the TV and burn it.
Malala is Attacked Coming from School
On October 9, in 2012, the fifteen-year-old Malala was shot in the head while taking a bus home from school. Nobody expected her to survive the ordeal. Bullets hit her two friends also; all of them survived. Malala suffered hearing loss and the left side of her face was paralyzed. The family moved to Birmingham, England where Malala spent many long months in rehabilitation. There were doubts that she would ever walk again, or speak again. Her determination to get better was a factor in her survival. One year after the anniversary of her attack, the Taliban said they would do it again. She did not harbor anger against them. The family was unable to return to Swat, which Malala labeled a paradise. She sorely missed her school companions and had a difficult time adjusting to the culture of her classmates in England. Malala remarked “If I went back to Swat, they would kill me. I would like to see our house again just once.”
Malala - Wikimedia
Destruction of Schools
The Taliban started destroying schools in Pakistan. They claimed that educating girls was against the Islam religion. In Swat, three schools were bombed in one night. More than 400 schools were destroyed throughout the country. BBC correspondents would call Malala on the phone. When journalists would question the people, they would say “No, I can’t speak.”
Citizens of Swat had to Leave their Homes
The Pakistani government took military action against the Taliban. Malala and her family had to leave their home; for three months they moved from place to place, refugees in our own country. They lived in four different houses at that time. The School Board president banned Malala’s book “My Name is Malala” in their town. People told Malala to change her name but her father Zia said “No.”
Malala Addressed the United Nations
On her sixteenth birthday, July 12, 2013, Malala addressed the United Nations at the UN headquarters in New York. Her purpose was to speak up for the right of education of every child. She stated “My father gave me the name Malala; he didn’t make me Malala. I chose this life; it was not forced on me.” She ended her talk by saying: “Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.”
Malala at the White House - Wikimedia
Malala meets President Obama and His Family
In October 2013, after giving an address to the World Bank in Washington, D.C., Malala was invited to the White Office to speak with President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, and their daughter Malia.
Nigerian Abduction of Young Girls
In 2014, 276 female students were abducted and taken away in trucks in Nigeria. Malala joined the campaign to find the abducted girls. To this day, although some girls had escaped, the majority are still missing.
Nobel Peace Prize Medal - Wikimedia
The Nobel Peace Prize
On December 19, 2014, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded in Oslo, Norway. Her incredible journey has inspired a worldwide movement against the suppression of young women. In her travels, she has met many celebrities, including Hillary Clinton, Bono, Queen Elizabeth of England, and several Rock stars.
Malala is indeed a role model for young people. Her survival was truly a miracle, enabling her to speak out against injustices throughout the world. I hope to hear more about her activities in the future. She has stated “I am many, and our voices have grown louder and louder.”
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