AMBER LOVE 21-AUG-2014 To the world, she is known by a single name, MALALA. Thinking about what she’s accomplished in life, I think author J.K. Rowling might have dubbed her, “the girl who lived.” Malala Yousafzai did more than live. She healed, thrived, and continued to travel the world to convince the most powerful leaders of nearly every continent that you defeat terrorism with books, not guns – and she has done this by age 17.
AN EVENING WITH MALALA
On this August night, lightning pocked the darkening clouds over rural Hunterdon County, New Jersey where Malala, her father Ziauddin Yousafzai and the CEO of Malala Fund Shiza Shahid sat in front of the sold out theater of 1,000 people to talk about these incredible achievements. Malala was only 10 years old when she launched her first activism campaign to educate girls in the Swat Valley. I don’t need to give you her biography since the Yousafzai’s and Shiza were there courtesy of the tiny independent retailer Clinton Book Shop whose owner Harvey Finkel not only gave the audience the opportunity to hear them speak, but each ticket holder received the latest young readers edition of “I AM MALALA: HOW ONE GIRL STOOD UP FOR EDUCATION AND CHANGED THE WORLD;” and the book shop also donated $1,000 to Malala Fund.
The theater at Raritan Valley Community College was filled to capacity. Unofficially, it seemed to be 95 percent female. My companion Karen and I noted how nice it was to see kids and teens in the audience which had otherwise had a mostly over 40 demographic. The stage was set with a cozy talk show dressing of chairs, large potted plants and a coffee table. Clinton Mayor Janice Kovach introduced the guests of honor. The entire presentation included an ASL translator in his own spotlight at stage left.
“I discovered from the beginning, the power of a girl child.” Ziauddin Yousafzai
Shiza Shahid, a co-founder of Malala Fund along with Malala and her father, has known this remarkable young woman since Malala was only 11 years old. Shiza acted as talk show host presenting the questions. What I didn’t expect was that this young girl who speaks and writes with unlimited dignity to have such a charming witty sense of humor. At that young age when girls in America are going to malls, watching endless hours of television or maybe stayed glued to video games, Malala was writing a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC to talk about the education issues of her people. Eventually, her identity became known and she and her father, a principal of a school, began receiving death threats.
Our looks cannot represent who we are, Malala said recalling how critical she was of her appearance before she was shot by the Taliban. She spoke about how after so many surgeries, what mattered to her was when she regained the ability to smile which had been lost to nerve damage.
Malala talked about the children in these cities under terrorist control. They don’t want Xbox and iPads, they want books and pens, Malala said of the children in countries like Nigeria, Syria and Pakistan. She passionately addressed how there are girls she was friends with that gave up their dreams growing up under the Taliban rule. She speaks to one friend now over Skype since the Yousafzai family moved to Birmingham in the U.K. Those girls, Malala sees when she tours the world, no longer have hopes of being doctors, teachers and journalists like they once did. She knows there are a few who will make it. There are thousands of people living in camps where there are not enough schools.
For her 16th birthday, Malala was giving a speech at the United Nations. For her 17th birthday, she went to Nigeria to speak with approximately 50 girls who had escaped kidnappings of the Boko Haram. For my 42nd birthday, I bought tickets to see Malala and was fortunate that I had a friend who would go with me. My birthday, while not threatened by terrorists, has not been something positive to life in general. I dreaded its approach. When I saw the announcement by Clinton Books that they were going to host this fascinating girl, I knew I wanted something to look forward to instead of another reminder that my life has not made much difference. She was a present to me. Having a friend at my side made it that much better. This is probably the only time in my life that I will be in the presence of a Nobel Peace Prize candidate.
Some of those Nigerians girls Malala visited were still injured and not getting proper healthcare. She knows she can’t provide schools for all them, but she knows she can make a difference to some of them not only in Nigeria but in many other parts of the world.
“I told Barack Obama to send books, not guns.” Malala Yousafzai
Malala’s mother is not in the spotlight. She does not go on the stages or the television stations. Yet Malala and Ziauddin credit this woman for all the courage and support they had under their worst of times when she herself was illiterate. They have a new life in England and Malala’s mother has begun learning to read and write. Ziauddin explained that his life improved when he learned to share his economic, social, and political life with his wife. In their culture, she didn’t meet his friends but she had the wisdom to give her husband advice and her opinions all the time. He said she was right 90 percent of the time proving exactly how wise of a woman she is regardless of her illiteracy.
“Her mother believed God would protect Malala when she was fighting for her life.” Ziauddin Yousafzai
Malala says education is the primary key to bring women into equality. There are so many issues that need to be solved: child trafficking, forced marriages, voting rights, and making peace. Malala said that you can do something no matter what your skill is. You don’t need to be like her, speaking to world leaders. She said that if you make art, sing, write books – you can show the importance of education through your own work.
“It brings dignity and honor when you educate your daughter.” Ziauddin Yousafzai