I don’t know if a hero is born or if they’re created. And I’m unsure, exactly, what the precise definition is, seeing as how the word gets so overused these days.
But I do know this: Heroes come to us when we least expect, but always when we need them most. And the world certainly needs Malala Yousafzai.
Malala, a 14-year old Pakistani activist is no stranger to controversy. In 2009, she campaigned for girls’s education, championing her cause by writing anonymous blogs for the BBC. Detailing Taliban atrocities near her home in the Swat Valley, she voiced her opposition to the Taliban. Writing about the burning of girls’ schools, Malala spoke of her desire to set up her own political party and establish an institute for marginalized girls in the area.
Her efforts gained the attention of the Pakistani Prime Minister, who awarded her the country’s first National Peace Prize. Her notoriety also attracted the attention of the Taliban, who put her family on their “hit list” and stormed her school bus as it sat preparing to leave the grounds in Mingora, the main city in the Swat Valley. Claiming Malala’s work as an “obscenity” that needed to be stopped, a Taliban gunman opened fire and shot her in the head.
Today, Malala is receiving treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in the UK. A facility which has treated every British battle casualty for the last ten years. Doctors say she “has a chance of making a good recovery on every level.” But while Malala recovers, the cause for which she nearly gave her life continues to struggle.
On Tuesday the Pakistani Supreme Court ordered an investigation into the alleged barter of seven girls to settle a family argument in a remote area of south west Pakistan. The exact ages of the girls were unknown, but the district deputy commissioner, Saeed Faisal, told the court the girls were between four and thirteen.
Malala Yousafzai isn’t just a symbol of resistance against the Taliban’s efforts to deprive girls of an education. She’s a symbol of hope against oppression everywhere. She spoke out. She made a difference. She changed the world. She’s a hero…and she’s only 14.
A few years ago, Bill Gates was invited to speak in Saudi Arabia and found himself in a segregated audience. On the left, four-fifths of the group were men, the remaining one-fifth on the right were women. One of the members spoke up, telling Gates it was Saudi Arabia’s goal to be one of the Top 10 technology countries in the world by 2010. When asked if it were realistic, Gates responded; “If you’re not fully utilizing half the talent in the country, you’re not going to get to the Top 10 in anything.”