Malala Yousafzai is clearly a remarkable young woman. She has faced death, yet refused to give in to fear and continued danger, and she is now working hard not only towards her own education, but also to raise awareness and create opportunities for children across the world – especially girls – to receive an education of their own. She is also, of course, the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. She is indeed remarkable.
She is also remarkably liberated. She has a platform from which to address the world, and this platform has been created for and by her because of a series of actions and life events, which she – often with the help of others – has used to free herself to be able to speak out and make a difference. She has, in other words, become liberated, and when we reflect on this, we can understand with greater insight the part that we have all played in helping her to achieve this, and the part we still have to play in helping her – and ourselves – to pursue the goals which she so eloquently expresses.
Malala came from a family that valued education, as they owned a chain of schools; family heritage played a founding role in who she was to become. When she speaks, she pays tribute to her father, who she says encouraged her to learn and to be herself; her father says the same. She first came to world attention because she chose to write an anonymous blog about the trials of living under the threat of Talibanisation; the BBC enabled her to spread this word. The gunman’s bullet was, too, a dreadful form of liberation – it sent shockwaves across the world, and mobilised public revulsion. Worldwide care and attention to her case brought her to the UK, to hospital and thence to school in Birmingham. In her short life so far, she has – amazingly and wonderfully – been enabled to become liberated in her action and in her communication.
Listening to her speak, one cannot fail but to sense the power that this liberation brings. Malala knows that people will listen to her, and her voice is strengthened as a result. She knows that she has an audience, and that what she says will be reported. This is why, in giving her first reactions to her Nobel Peace Prize, she called for conciliation between the governments of India and Pakistan, inviting the leaders of both nations to stand alongside her and her fellow Peace Prize Winner, Kailash Satyarthi, at the awards ceremony. Everything that has happened to her in her life so far has brought her to this point – one of many on her journey, we can be certain – that seek to move the world forward. And we can take pride in what we have done to help her get her here.
We must be careful not to paint Malala as a super human, or some kind of angel. She is a young woman, full of the glorious imperfections that we all share. Her liberated determination to speak out, however, is an inspiration to us – and an affirmation, too. What she can do, so can other young women; what we have done for Malala, we can do for others.
Malala liberated is a beacon of hope for others and for us all. If we listen carefully, we can almost hear the chains starting to break across the world.