The first time I realized education was not considered a right for many children, especially girls, around the world, I didn’t know what else to do but weep. I was 24 when I first witnessed the difference education can make in a life and how the lack of knowledge cripples.
I was volunteering in a small school in South Asia, most of the children receiving an education their parents had not, that many in their village never would. I saw the light in their eyes when they spoke of their hopes for a future beyond the day labor most of their families knew. Many spoke of dreams of becoming doctors and engineers.
Returning over and again to this land that captured my heart, I have been able to spend time in several such schools. Just a few months ago, I was visiting a small village near the school when I met a young teenaged girl, baby in her lap and a toddler running near. Her teacher told me she could have been a great nurse had she stayed in school beyond sixth grade.
I jumped at the chance to read I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And Was Shot By The Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb because of my connection to the part of the world from which this story comes and because of my belief in the power of education I gained in South Asia.
Malala Yousafzai’s story became worldwide news in 2012 when the then 15-year-old girl was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban, targeted because of her outspoken views promoting girls education in Swat Valley in northern Pakistan. She has remained in the public eye as an advocate for human rights and education and has become the youngest Nobel Prize laureate.
Like me, you may have heard the story of Malala, but if you believe you know her through news stories and haven’t read the story in her own words, I think you will be surprised.
I expected to walk away from reading this book with a greater concern for women’s rights. That was woven through the book, of course. How could you not become passionate about education and rights reading the first-hand account of a girl who was banned from school—putting a face to one of the 57 million children not in primary school—32 million of those being girls?
As a mother to a bright young seven-year-old, my anger flamed at the thought of her being driven from her own school. This book brings us to the brink of important questions as we reflect on our own access to—or lack of access to—education.
What are we willing to give so others might have this right that should be for every boy and girl? Are we willing to stand up for it like Malala?
While this is a book that challenges us to think about our views on education as a fundamental right, it is also a book about what motivates a person to stand up when others around her are accepting what life hands them. It is a story about faith.
I was challenged by the portrait of her activist father, who valued his daughter in a culture where girls are cast aside, who was so counter-cultural. When the Taliban had taken over her beloved home, her father reminded her life was harder for women in Afghanistan.
How are we shaping those we influence to live in a way that seeks to better the lives of others?
As I read her account I was also overcome by the gentle and kind words from this devout Muslim girl, her gratitude in the face of the unthinkable and her passion for making a better world for others. “God, give me strength and courage and make me perfect because I want to make this world perfect,” prayed a young teen in the face of terrorism and oppression.
As I read her prayers, her deep belief in a good and loving God, I wondered: how deeply are my own beliefs empowering me to change the lives of others like she has?
“I know God stopped me from going to the grave. It feels like this life is a second life. People prayed to God to spare me, and I was spared for a reason—to use my life for helping people.” —Malala
Come back Wednesday, July 27 for our discussion post. Join the Facebook group to discuss the book throughout the month.
Our September book is Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women And The Burden Of Strength by Chanequa Walker-Barnes.
I Am Malala (Young Readers Edition) – Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide – Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books – Azar Nafisi
Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi
Girls’ Education– The World Bank
*Recommended Beth Bruno, Kelly Nikondeha, Annie Rim
Are you reading I Am Malala with us? Share your thoughts so far in the comments.