When I woke up this morning and checked my facebook and twitter, I noticed a news story that kept popping up everywhere. Malala Yousufzai, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl living in the Swat valley, was shot in the head by the Taliban for her public advocacy of girls education.
Back in 2009, the Taliban had a stronghold in the Swat Valley, a region bordering Afghanistan. Yousufzai was eleven years old at this time, and the Taliban had recently banned girls from attending schools. She began writing a journal for BBC news, titled “Diary of a Pakistani Schoolgirl”, under an alias to protect herself. The journal was read throughout the country, and people everywhere heralded this anonymous girl for her bravery at a time when speaking up could easily result in death. Since then her identity has been revealed, and she has continued to be a public advocate for continuing education for girls.
The Taliban have threatened her in the past, and yesterday they stopped her school bus on its way to school, asked which girl was Malala Yousufzai, and opened fire. It is a true miracle that she survived. The Taliban made a statement explaining that they tried to kill her because “She has become a symbol of Western culture in the area”, and said if she survived they would try to kill her again.
Let’s step back here for a second. This girl was eleven when she started speaking out against the Taliban’s oppressive rule. ELEVEN. When I was that age, the most courageous thing I ever did was tell a boy that I liked him through AIM chatting. At eleven this girl was more courageous than I ever will be, and at 14 she remains outspoken and a true inspiration for people around the world.
But something that’s been bothering me all day is that I’d never heard of her before this tragedy happened. Why is that? Jessica Simpson’s new Weight Watchers diet got more attention than this incredible girl who was pushing for true change and reform in her country.
I want to hear more stories like Yousufzai’s, about girls who change the world for the better. Let’s make THEM famous, make them the girls we look up to. Below I’m starting with some girls I’ve read about recently that have caught my attention.
Mycroft won the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011 for her commitment to helping children with disabilities. Her organization, called the Chaeli Campaign, raises money to provide physical therapy and equipment to South African children with disabilities. Mycroft has Cerebral Palsy, and the fact that she started this organization is so inspiring and demonstrates that willpower and hard work can take anybody a long way.
I read Ali’s book last year, “I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced”, and it was incredible. After being forced to marry a man in his thirties, Nujood escaped and found a lawyer to file for divorce. She is one of the few women in Yemen who has successfully been granted a divorce, and her book is definitely worth reading. She shows that you can be a strong woman at any age, and that women’s basic rights are still being fought for all around the world.
I read about Giamattista in Seventeen magazine, and her story has stuck with me. She started an organization called Taylor’s Closet, which allows girls who have had difficult lives to have an afternoon of shopping for free, creating a bonding and therapeutic experience. Giamattista is helping to make these girls feel empowered and self-confident, giving them the strength to become the people they are meant to be.
Whether they live in a Taliban-controlled part of Pakistan or Fort Lauderdale, Florida, these girls are making a difference in the world around them and deserve to be more well-known. Who are some people you know (personally or not) that you think deserve to be famous? Feel free to comment below or send an email with the story to GirlsInRealLife44@gmail.com , I’d love to read about more amazing girls!