Back in March, I won a provincial writing award for this piece. Total God-thing, more on that at the end.
The Moment It Went Dark
based on true events
Later, you’ll find it a little ironic and kind of symbolic that they chose your head. Not your heart or lungs, but your head - more specifically, your brain - the thing they didn’t want you to develop.
However, right now, in this millisecond between the moment the bullet connects with your skull and the moment everything goes black, everything flashes before your eyes.
Your first day of school. The anticipation and excitement, the strict discipline and the reverent thankfulness because you know what a privilege this is. You’re nearly bursting with joy at the thought - you will be a literate woman.
Throughout the days you soak in all the knowledge, all the wisdom, that this place called school has to offer. The smell of the dusty chalkboards and the feeling of the hard wooden chairs and desks - you wouldn’t trade it for anything. The sounds of girls writing and asking questions sparks a sweet feeling in your chest. You know you must share this amazing gift with all the girls of your country. So, at a tender young age you become an advocate. You speak out against cultural boundaries and social stigmas, because girls deserve education just as much as boys.
You make progress. More girls are going to school, and you have become somewhat of an icon, although you don’t really see yourself as one. People know your name. Sometimes, you’re even stopped in the street by someone who tells you how amazing and courageous you are. You’re told that you’re a hero. Then the trouble begins.
They ban girls’ education. You’re upset, but remain optimistic. You think everything will be okay. Your school closes for awhile, but not for long. Soon you’re able to return to school, even though the ban hasn’t been lifted. They aren’t the government, so technically it isn’t illegal, but they have power, because they instill a gripping fear on the people of your county. You and the other girls who continue to go to school know the risks of your blatant disobedience.
Only ten girls continue to attend school. This saddens you. The classroom is sparse and quieter than usual. Even some of your teachers are not present. The mood is less lively and the girls are low-spirited because of the effect the ban has had on girls’ education. You all live in fear of your school being attacked by those opposed to girls’ education. You all make do, though, and you continue to learn. As long as you and others who want to can learn, you are happy, and that sweet feeling in your chest continues.
You continue to be a young advocate for girls’ education. You write (because you know how!) and you speak to groups of people when invited to. For years and years, girls have been denied education in your country, but you can see an end to that. You see hope. You feel motivated, and although there’s reason to be afraid, you’re not.
However, soon the death threats start. One day, while you’re walking home, someone calls after you, “I’ll kill you!” You’re not sure if they are talking to you or not, but terror suddenly rushes through you. You feel yourself panicking and you practically run all the way home.
Soon, you are sure they’re talking to you. The threats become stronger and more clearly directed towards you.
This won’t stop you, though. You will not back down. You continue to attend school, as do some of the other girls. You continue to stand up to them - those who say girls can not attend school. The teachers try their best to protect you and your classmates. “Do not wear a uniform, or brightly coloured clothes,” they say, “It will draw unwanted attention.” You follow their guidelines as closely as possible, but you know that because of your minor fame and very public defiance, you can do little to protect yourself while traveling to and from school.
Today started like any other day. You wake up and get dressed in a very average, non-schoolgirl-type dress. You walk through the dusty streets to the bus and ride with your friends. You get to school and learn math, writing and science. The clicks of chalk against the chalkboard and the murmurs of girls excited to learn delight you. You love it. Like you do everyday, you wish every girl got this opportunity. You get on the bus to go home. You ride with your friends. You step out off the bus, and hear the gunshot. You gasp, and everything goes black.
On October 9th, 2012, Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani schoolgirl and an outspoken advocate for girls’ education was shot in the head by the Taliban because of her advocacy. Against all odds, she survived and is now recovering in hospital. Her courage is an inspiration to us all.
My teacher introduces this writing contest two months before the deadline. I pick up the form and it collects dust for two months.
The day I think it's due, I run up to her and ask if there's still time. She says it was supposed to be due yesterday, but she can give me two more days, give it to her on Friday.
Thursday night I sit and stare at a blank New Document for two hours. And then I just write.
Somehow, all that up there came out.
God's cool like that.
And then, they made a video about it, and I got to share a little bit about my passion for giving a voice to the voiceless and about Him who gives me strength. It was such a God-thing:
My segment starts around the 8:35 mark.
RSS readers/email subscribers: Here's the link to the video. :)
Because - she is so courageous. Because from the moment I heard about her I was so inspired by this girl almost exactly the same age as me - and just as passionate about giving a voice to the voiceless.
I consider myself an advocate, yet I ask myself, would I be so brave? How easily could I have been Malala, born into the world of an illiterate woman, and would I really have stood like she does?
Malala Yousafzai inspired me, and I so wanted to share her story through my words, somehow stand with her in this small way.
And why am I sharing this now, you ask? Three months after the award was presented to me?
Because - this Friday is Malala's 16th birthday, deemed #MalalaDay. To mark the day, Malala will make a public address at the United Nations in New York, demanding action in the fight for universal education and proving that the bullet to her head will not silence her. Read more here.
That man who stepped on the bus and shot Malala last October - he failed. Because she will continue her fight for education for all. Malala will not stay silent - she will continue to stand up for every child who will not attend school today, tomorrow, possibly ever.
We can stand with her. You can sign this petition to add your voice to the growing group who will stand with Malala on Friday, demanding education for every child.
It is one of our Millennium Development Goals - achieve universal primary education.
It's not too late. Malala's voice is stronger than ever, and ours can be too.
Education shouldn't be a privilege - because it is a right. Let's treat it like one.
I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them that what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.
- Malala Yousafzai