Last night I was watching an incredible documentary with my parents about a 16-year-old Pakistani girl named Malala Yousafzai, whose passion for education rights led to worldwide recognition of the sexist education system in Pakistan. She began expressing her concerns and beliefs about gender equality when she was only 11-years-old through speaking and blogging. However, her brave, outspoken voice advocating for education for women made her a target for assassination by the Taliban and just over a year ago, she was shot in the head while on a school bus.
Miraculously, the bullet hit the side of her face in such a way that her skull directed the bullet away from her brain. Instead, the bullet severed a major facial nerve, shattered her left eardrum and lodged itself into her shoulder. After being rushed to the hospital and undergoing a five hour surgery to try and remove several blood clots and reduce brain swelling, Malala remained in critical condition. A renowned surgeon from England happened to be in Pakistan at the time and was called to the hospital to help rescue the girl. The surgeon suggested she be flown to a high tech hospital in Birmingham, England, an eight hour trip from Pakistan. There was so little hope for her survival that her father had asked her brother-in-law to prepare a coffin.
Thankfully, the team of doctors in England were able to save Malala, however she had to undergo several additional operations to try and reconnect her severed facial nerve. She still has difficulty moving the left side of her face and requires a hearing aid, but despite the hardship she has endured, her amazing efforts to stand up for children in Pakistan are unwavering. Her bravery has led to awards such as Europe’s top human rights prize and the $65, 000 Sakharov Award. She is even in the running for a Nobel Peace Prize!
I thought it was a perfect time to show this documentary because Thanksgiving is all about being grateful for everything you have in life. This courageous girl made me very thankful for my opportunity to have an education and for living in a country where girls are not murdered for their desire to learn and for expressing their opinions.
Malala’s advice to those in the developed world is to take advantage of their education and particularly, “I would like to tell all the girls: Realize its importance before it is snatched from you,” she said. Her story definitely hit home for me and despite the festivities of Thanksgiving and the beautiful weather, I feel slightly less reluctant to study for midterms now.