Pakistan: a country created out of divine right for Indian muslims has faced turmoil despite its recent birth in 1947. Through its existence, Pakistan has become a religious haven for millions with the largest place of islamic worship in the world.
However, Pakistan, despite its inherent beauty and lush culture between the Indian Ocean and Himalayas, is often associated with the death place of Osama Bin Laden, terrorism, the death of journalists by religious groups as well as the treatment of its women.
Experts supported by the Thomson Reuters Foundation poll, ranked Pakistan the third most dangerous country for girls in the world in 2011. With about 1,000 or more women and girls alike murdered in so called “honor killings” each year and about 90% of all women in Pakistan reporting domestic violence in their homes, the ranking of third worst in the world seems not so unreasonable, but the growing list of staggering statistics only gets longer.
The literacy rate for women in Pakistan is a mere 45% compared to men which have a 69% literacy rate, leaving especially rural women unable to claim their daily justice, or a fair space next to their male counterparts.
Rape victims isolate themselves from society in fear of hurting her family’s honor. As a result, many rapes go unreported, and women instead of shedding light on the issue, augment the reality of the problem at hand and overlook their necessary duty to report the crime.
Welcoming a female baby into the world does not cue excitement in Pakistan, however, the patriarchy within its society has grown alongside the country’s population. Pakistan’s women face a reality far more complex than religious oppression and theocracy. Pakistani women are treated as less than, left uneducated and poor, fighting for respect, not even equality— basic human rights.
Yet, many female rights activists, including one of the most famous teenage champions of equal education have emerged from the Pakistani Swat Valley— none other than heroine Malala Yousafzai.
Malala’s father, Ziauddin, supported her education and was determined to provide her with every opportunity a boy could obtain. As an educator himself, Malala would go to school and be treated fairly under his roof despite her gender.
As Malala grew, so did her love for learning and exploring. Yet, when she turned ten, the Taliban entered her valley and took control (2007). They banned televisions, music and began enforcing public executions to those who disobeyed the new sanctions. Yet matters seemed to only get worse as in December of 2008, the Taliban prohibited girls from going to school.
The implications and violence continued to spread along her beloved valley, causing Malala to begin blogging about life under the Taliban for the BBC under a coded name, “Gul Makai”. She soon was featured in a short documentary for the New York Times with her father about their life under the Taliban and protecting female rights to an education in Swat Valley.
However, her bravery would prove to put a target on her back. When she was just fifteen, a masked gunman boarded her school bus and shot her in the face. A bullet would not even silence Malala.
Six months later, after multiple surgeries, months of rehabilitation, she would put on her school uniform and would go back into a classroom. Violence would not prevent Malala from using her voice, it would only help increase her volume.
July 12th was named ‘Malala Day” by the U.N. and has become a beacon for change and hope for vulnerable girls all of the world struggling to go to school. She has continued championing for girls around the world despite tragedy and violence.
“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world”- Malala
She has become a teenage icon for feminists all across the world and even wrote a book about her life in Swat Valley called I am Malala. She has also started a charity with her father called the Malala Fund. In Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, Lebanon, and Syria girls typically miss secondary education which led the organization to champion free, safe, and quality education in those areas.
Some Pakistani women like Malala have begun drawing attention to the growing gender gap within Pakistan’s borders— others are afraid of the repercussions. However it’s not just Pakistani citizens realizing these issues within small towns like Swat Valley, it’s you and I and anyone who has access to Malala’s book, BBC blog or New York Times documentary.
As women and men who have access to an education, it is our job to not only learn about the growing gender crisis within Pakistan and all over the world, but also help those like Malala who are working to bring down the obstacles, and allow girls to freely and safely attend school. It is our duty to support activists like Malala in their journey, no matter what may stand in their way.