That a 17-year-old girl can be so spectacularly vocal in expressing her concerns, is very much news. When 17-year-olds are just stepping out of school, this girl — Malala Yousafzai — is telling the world that she is not a lone voice. In her speech while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, this girl who is just 5 feet and 2 inches tall (including her high heels), said in a clear and confident voice:
“Though I appear as one girl, one person, who is 5 foot 2 inches tall, if you include my high heels, I am not a lone voice. I am many.
I am Shazia.
I am Kaimat Riaz.
I am Kaimat Somro.
I am Mezon.
I am Amina.
I am those 66 million girls who are out of school. …”
The strength in the firm voice that even bordered on shrillness at times, cannot be missed. There was a time when Malala Yousafzai stood right in front of gun-totting Taliban terrorists and spoke up. They riddled her body with bullets. She almost died, but survived. And now, she is not a lone voice. For, she represents 66 million girls who cannot go to school.
Life has taught Malala much wisdom. Having returned from Death’s jaws, she has become wiser with life’s challenges. Now she does not want to miss action — of pushing the cause of girls’ education and their welfare in a true sense; empowerment, in other words. So, as she looked at her notes occasionally and spoke, the world knew that she was speaking from heart, and also using her head as she marshalled a terrific thought to move the world.
The world did, and clapped and even cried.
“I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is not”, she asserted.
For her, this is the story of 66 million girls.
For the world, too, this must be the story of all girls who deserve going to school and learning and growing up ever wiser.
At one point sometime ago, Malala had expressed a political wish — that she would be a leader of people. They — the terrorists in politics, may not like this ‘minuscule’ girl to be a leader. So, they may subject her to other tests by fire. But the world did not miss the determination in her eyes and on her face ringed by her red stole. It does not matter if Malala turns to politics or she takes the route of constructive work without political attachment. What will matter is the manner in which Malala garners support and pursues a dream of sending every girl to school.
Of course, there are countless difficulties in girls going to school and staying on and staying put in the classrooms, to study and to learn. That the schools do not have toilets for girls, can be one reason why the girls do not go to school, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi once found out much to his agony. So, he said, one of his aims would be to ensure that all schools have proper toilets that girls could use, and keep attending classes.
Malala does not specify exactly what she will do and how she will ensure that all off the 66 million deprived girls get to school. But the inspired tone of her voice and determined look in her eyes and claim confidence on her face are good enough to assure the world that no problem is too difficult to be sorted out.
But, frankly, at least until now, Malala’s concern has not become the world’s concern. And, there is a reason why it hasn’t. Simply, the world has not attached much importance to countless issues relating to girls and women. Traditionally, the woman has often been taken as a second fiddle to men. But when someone like Malala stands up and speaks up, a big difference is made. The world sits up and takes notice.
At this juncture, one can only pray:
May Malala become a symbol of transnational movement to ensure that every girl gets education to rise to her own full potential.
May the Malalas of the world grow — as a tribe, and as a tribute to womanhood !