By: Syeda Sultana Rizvi
Malala has emerged as the most influential and powerful girl child of the world who is acknowledged for her courage globally
Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai, though could not win Nobel Prize this year, has added a laurel in the cap of our young and courageous nation by becoming youngest woman nominee for this award. Malala has emerged as the most influential and powerful girl child of the world who is acknowledged for her courage globally. Many people win Nobel Prize every year, but only a few like Nelson Mandela and Mother Theresa enjoys long lasting and widespread love and recognition. Even before getting nominated for the most coveted award, daughter of Pakistan Malala, enjoyed the affection and respect globally. She is owned by people of all age groups and nationalities due to universal appeal of her work. Malala’s outstanding courage, which is definitely way out of proportion for her age and gender, has made her a symbol of rights of not only every girl child but each and every child who is victim of conflict and deprived of basic human rights including right to education.
One reason that should make people of Pakistan proud to own Malala is that she has given a turn around to the image of country internally and externally. The Malala episode has given a sense that the nation has its conscience alive and there is a bright hope for children and women of this country. Malala has made people of Pakistan, particularly children realize, that it is not silence but emancipation from fear that is the key to attain your rights. To the international community, she has conveyed the effects of fall out of conflict and international political games on the vulnerable segments of population particularly women and children. The new introduction that Malala has given to Pakistan has achieved what our entire diplomatic and media efforts together could not. I am living in the UK for the last five years. Before Malala’s episode while interacting with any one from British or any other community, whenever I introduced myself as a Pakistani, the immediate concern of other person would be “a country threatened by Taliban” and the conversation would take the direction of, me, explaining to people that Islam is not about usurping human rights of people and that majority of the people in Pakistan are by no means extremists or against education.
Now, thanks to Malala when I introduce myself as a Pakistani I immediately see a spark in the eyes and smile on lips of other person, no matter which country or religion they may belong to. Now the immediate response that I get to hear sounds of big hope in Pakistan and the feeling of belonging to people who cannot be cowed down by threats. I get to hear compliments “Oh you must be proud of brave children like Malala in your country”. “Wow, I never knew that in Pakistan there is such an awareness and drive for education.” “Wonderful! You belong to Malala’s country, we, even the Western women, also feel empowered by the courage of this young girl”, and so on.
Malala, like Benazir Bhutto, has become an effective promo for Pakistan, a single name that has power to overshadow all the negativities and misperceptions about Pakistan. The way Malala promoted Pakistan’s name in global media is worth more than billions of dollars of campaigns. We always needed help with promoting education in Pakistan. We needed world to recognize the fall out of Afghan War on our people. We were trying hard to make international community realise the misery and sufferings faced by our people due to our role in war against terrorism. Malala has communicated all that to the world emphatically.
Illiteracy and lack of education remain the biggest hurdle in the moral and material progress of Pakistan. Islam is a religion that lays huge emphasis on the education of both men and women. The first holy revelation to Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) began with ‘Iqra’, meaning ‘read’ and we the Muslims very conveniently forgot this and other verses of Holy book that tend to empower human beings through education and contemplation.
Malala! This is not only people of Pakistan and the Muslim World who owe you a debt that could be paid back by educating their children but you are a wakeup call to the conscience of entire international community to draw attention to the fact that it is the young children who are worst victims of conflicts and insensitive political and social policies in both underdeveloped and developed world, call upon the world leadership to look into preventing the future of humanity from depletion by protecting the rights of children, where ever they are. I am sure following the example of your courage many of young women would be working hard to be nominated for Nobel Prize and who knows may be you will win the Nobel Prize in future. Keep up the good work.
The writer is an Information Group Officer and former Head of Press Section at the Pakistan High Commission London