The power of one voice

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by Kit Murray

murrayki@mnstate.edu

It’s easy to forget that America is at war. Other countries in the Middle East are struggling, pushing for rights and trying to survive. We often take for granted how many freedoms we have in this country.

A little over three years ago, the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai, was shot in the head while walking to school in Pakistan by the Taliban. She was shot for speaking out for what she believes is right — education for all Pakistani girls.

The name Malala translates to “a woman as sweet as honey.” Although the literal meaning definitely reflects who she is, a charming and engaging young woman, her father named her after Malalai — a famous Afghan heroine who was killed during the second Anglo-Afghan War. Last Thursday, the film “He Named Me Malala” was released in hopes of shining light on this young woman seeking change in the Middle East.

Yousafzai is famous for her online feminist blog, which she started in her early teens, but this movie highlights her work as an activist in pushing for women’s freedom and educational rights. She’s encouraging Western ideas in a region of Pakistan that strictly prohibits anything of that nature and has, in turn, seen the wrath of the Taliban.

Her voice is critical  not only to the Middle East but to Western society as well. The way women are treated in Pakistan, being silenced and stripped of many fundamental human rights, is something Yousafzai is trying to bring attention to so change can be made. Whether we realize it or not, we are a part of this. Sadly, we may be making it worse. What happens overseas almost seems like a massive secret — what are we fighting for, how are we affected by the Taliban and what have we done to help those in need of fundamental rights?

This young woman has been advocating for freedom since she knew how to read and write. She’s even encouraged her family of five, including her mother, to further their studies and continue their education. Yousafzai speaks in an eloquent fashion that touches the audience and inspires change.

It’s a simple idea: education for all. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget how well off we are and how other areas in the world are struggling to speak up against injustice.

Yousafzai is so humble in her work and doesn’t want her recognition to be glorified. Instead, she wants others to realize how important what she has to say is and how her voice isn’t the only one.

“So let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism. Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons,” Yousafzai said.

Criticism from film enthusiasts already exists and points out that this movie isn’t dramatic or captivating enough. Although I haven’t seen the film, after reading her story “I Am Malala” and researching her work, it is evident that this young woman is anything but ordinary.

She has done so much for boys, girls and the entire Pashtun community. Her voice may be soft and gentle, but her actions and honest, powerful words have shaken the world.

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