Access to education privilege for many
Last week marked the one-year anniversary of the horrific day that Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in Pakistan. In the year since the attempted murder, Yousafzai has published a book about her life, turned 16, been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and become an even more outspoken proponent of education.
There are many lessons to be learned from her story, but the most important is that all of us, as UA students, are incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to be educated without fear, to live without threat to our lives and to learn without restrictions.
The radical Islamic group targeted Yousafzai after she authored a blog detailing the difficulty of living under Shariah law, in constant danger from the Taliban who enforce it. Yousafzai grew up in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, where the Taliban rose to power and banned girls from attending school, even going so far as to burn some girls’ schools.
Yousafzai started writing a blog under a pseudonym at the age of 11, and a year later was the subject of a New York Times documentary. When her identity was made public, Yousafzai seized the chance to speak out on the importance of education for women.
“I didn’t want my future to be … imprisoned in my four walls and just cooking and giving birth,” she said in a recent interview with the BBC.
Her situation, unfortunately, is still the reality for many women around the world. My own grandmothers were not allowed to attend school while growing up in Kosovo. As a result of the political and social factors that prevented them from being educated, they never learned how to read or write. They stayed at home and learned to cook and clean while their brothers went off to school each day.
It’s tempting to say this is a generation removed from us, an outdated problem, but I have aunts who suffered the same fate. My family is Albanian. It is important to note that this is not only an issue in the Middle East, but crosses borders of both ethnicity and religion.
Today, in 2013, only 30 percent of girls around the world go to secondary school.
Why is the world so reluctant to educate its women?
Educating women introduces them to different ideas and schools of thought that inspire them to challenge traditionally held ideas like antiquated gender roles. Education enables women to empower themselves, to respect themselves as equal to men and to raise their voices against tyranny and discrimination, just like Yousafzai did.
To the Taliban and other groups like them around the world, it is scary to think that women, who have been held down under their outdated and misogynistic laws for so long, are going to be able to put up a fight.
Next time you catch yourself complaining about the homework you have to do or the test you have to prepare for, try to remember Yousafzai, who was shot point-blank in the head for speaking about a woman’s right to education. Remember the girls all around the world who live and die without ever learning how to write their own names. Remember how fortunate you are and make the most of the opportunity you’ve been given, not only for yourself, but for those who can only dream of it.
It is not enough to recognize our privilege, though. Progress is a continual struggle — in this case, a struggle against thousands of years of oppression and chauvinism and unequal rights. As responsible global citizens, we should use our privilege to help girls around the world gain the right to education. The Malala Fund seeks to make these changes, and support for it and similar organizations can positively impact the world for generations to come.
Fortesa Latifi is a family studies senior. Follow her @dailywildcat.