There is no question – a 15-year-old Pakistani girl has become synonymous worldwide with courage: Malala.
It is a beautiful name – melodic and memorable – yet its fame and familiarity over the last few weeks derive from an unspeakably cruel act. That paradox, perhaps, provides its strength.
The fact is: one ordinary yet extraordinary young woman, shot and nearly killed by those in Pakistan who would deny her and other girls’ the right to education – to their own opinions, growth and accomplishments – is rightfully a global icon and inspiration.
So, now is the propitious time to act.
As she recovers all but miraculously in a Birmingham hospital in the U.K., her father reportedly said, in a moving interview by his daughter’s bed: She is not just my daughter – she is the daughter of everyone, she is the sister of everyone.
Everyone. That is the key word. All of us have the responsibility for doing what we can to stop the shaming, limiting, controlling, harming, assaulting, enslaving and killing of girls and women in so many parts of the world. Daughters, sisters, spouses, mothers. Some evidence suggests these horrendous problems are getting worse even as societies appear to be more advanced. Only on the surface, it seems.
What hasn’t advanced is whatever is in the psyches of the people who perpetrate violence against women just living their lives – for any reason. For reasons beyond our comprehension, it is ‘accepted’ in parts of countries, villages, cities and homes in the developing and developed world alike. It is sick. It is not justified by any religion or god. This bestial behavior is carried out by those without a conscience, it seems… or a sufficient intellect to process the insanity they are committing.
Each of us should speak out against these atrocities. The violence happens to thousands upon thousands of women and girls… every day. Scores have likely been injured badly – some even murdered – in the minutes it is taking you to read these words. Let that settle in for a moment. Right now, men are killing women… for what? Because they are women? What does it say about us if we cannot do something about this?
The only way to stem this epidemic is to SHOUT it down. Stand up to it. Report it. Don’t back a ruling authority, formal or informal, that condones it. Hold attackers – wherever they are and whomever they are – accountable. The aggressors feed on silence. Make this issue, and the individuals affected, a priority in your life. What reason is there not to?
There is a new name for the courage each of us should find and display daily to protect, engage, respect, and uplift women around the world in danger. That name is: Malala.