The pen is mightier than the sword. And what a sword Malala wields.
As the world waits to learn the winner of the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, the world is also watching Malala Yousafzai, the girl from Pakistan who was shot in the head 366 days ago for her support of education for girls.
Even the letter of “explanation” from the Taliban, who perpetrated the horror, said that Malala was shot for “intentionally writing against [the Taliban] and running a smearing campaign to malign their efforts to establish Islamic system in Swat and your writings were provocative.”
For the Taliban, yes, writings that powerfully advocate for the education of girls and women without regard to whether that education adheres to “Western” or “Eastern” standards, but simply to standards of whether it is complete, would be seen as provocative. And for many of us in the West, with our snow days and our summer vacations, the idea that a child would stare down the barrel of a gun in the name of education is something that might be difficult to conceive. Then again, so is the wisdom of the child who can use the power her education has given her to share thoughts like the ones I found in speeches and interviews she’s given.
My personal list of favorites includes this line from the Inauguration of the Library of Birmingham in the UK this past January:
“There is no greater weapon than knowledge and no greater source of knowledge than the written word.”
Yet another came from her appearance this week on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:
In my opinion, the solution to stop all these wars and solve all these problems that people are facing, is education. Going to school is not only about learning different subjects – it teaches you communication, you learn about equality, because students are provided the same benches. It teaches students how to live with others, how to accept each other’s language, each other’s traditions, each other’s religion. It also teaches us justice, it teaches us respect, it teaches us how to live together.
Then, there’s this one from her speech to the UN General Assembly:
There was a time when women activists asked men to stand up for their rights. But this time we will do it by ourselves. I am not telling men to step away from speaking for women’s rights, but I am focusing on women to be independent and fight for themselves.
Heady stuff on your 16th birthday. While for many of us in the West, it’s love songs on the radio that carry the lesson about not appreciating what you have until it’s gone, for Malala that lesson was about something much larger, as she told Jon Stewart on Tuesday night:
Part of our human nature is that we don’t learn the importance of anything until it’s snatched from our hands. And in Pakistan when we were stopped from going to school, at that time I realized that education is very important. Education is the power for women, and that’s why the terrorists are afraid of education: They do not want women to get education because then women will become more powerful.
Malala’s world is one of empowerment, and she told an incredulous Diane Sawyer that she believes words are more powerful than any gun, much the way she said it to the UN:
Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.
There are other gems, too, like the interview where she said:
I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I’m afraid of no one.
However, for me, the two home run quotes from Malala Yousafzai came from her appearance with Jon Stewart on Tuesday. The first deals with her earliest beginnings as an activist.
My father was great encouragement for me. He spoke out for women’s rights. He spoke out for girls’ education. And at that time, I said, ‘Why should I wait for someone else? Why should I be looking to the Government or to the Army, that they would help us? Why don’t I raise my voice? Why don’t we speak up for our rights?
And the quote that stopped me in my tracks was this – and it’s a powerful lesson for all of us:
I started to think that the Talib would come and he would just kill me. Then I said, ‘What if he comes – what would you do, Malala?’ I would reply to myself and say, ‘Malala just take a shoe and hit him,’ but then I said ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty. You must fight others,but through peace, through dialogue, and through education.’
This article was published by “theloop” at this link: