Many people find the fame and global media attention that surrounds young Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai unpleasant. There are a variety of reasons for this, and whilst some should be ignored, others prompt discussion.
Of course it is difficult to understand the reasons behind the Taliban’s barbarism and the group’s continuing threats to kill Malala. Some people are just angry that she is receiving this much attention at a time when there are other high profile issues. Many consider the suffering of Syrian, Yemeni, and Egyptian women, for example, far more demanding of global attention. Others feel anger due to a perceived Arab-Islamic inferiority complex towards the West.
Then there are those who are disappointed by what they consider to be “sensationalized” coverage of this brave girl’s experience. The bullet fired by the Taliban gunmen hit Malala but failed to kill her, and now she is a celebrated star. Her experience is being exploited to highlight other unrelated causes, not only the rights of women and girls to education.
I mulled all of this over while watching the documentary Girl Rising.
The film follows the stories of nine girls from different countries and the difficulties they face in educating themselves. It highlights issues such as poverty, early marriage, slavery, sexual abuse, and discrimination. Despite the dark reality of these girls’ lives, there is a cause for hope.
The plight of more than 66 million girls deprived of an education is highlighted in the documentary. Two-thirds of people who are illiterate are female. This documentary deeply affected me. I feel that those that watch it will be touched by the girls’ lives. It demonstrates their absolute determination to obtain an education, like that displayed by Malala.
Indeed, Malala has become an icon, as have many others who fight for their causes. They may not have achieved miracles but they have inspired the masses, instilling hope in society. If Malala had not received as much attention would she have died of her wounds? Would she have fled her home in Pakistan out of fear of retribution for surviving the attack?
The world doesn’t need more silent victims, there are plenty. It is our duty to use our voices to increase awareness of the women who dream of change. Malala and others like her spread hope and a desire that our future will shine brightly in the face of our dark present.