In a break from my normal endless stream of trashy TV (which reminds me, I have a lot of Dynasty to catch up on!), I found myself strangely drawn to a documentary about Malala Yousefzai.
A couple of years ago I was in an Uber on my way to RAK and the normal ‘where are you from’ conversation started. Mostly I tune these out but this driver was slightly different. There was something that drew me to talking to him. We briefly talked about London (because ‘Surrey’ never gets you very far), and then he told me he was from Pakistan. I asked where as I am getting quite good at knowing roughly where the cities are. He explained he was from the same place as Malala.We talked about this for a while. He explained the shame he personally felt for having let a ‘little girl’ stand up to the Taliban when he, as a grown man, was too afraid. It was obviously a very heavy burden on his shoulders. Something he hadn’t managed to shake even still. We talked about it some more and he explained that actually as a population, ‘shame’ was the one thing they all felt when they heard her name. He went on to say that the Taliban was still there but they didn’t hold as much power over them as they once did. All because of this ‘child’.
It was a very interesting and different conversation, and one that I know will always stay with me. I was fascinated by his openness and willingness to admit how wrong his home town was. It’s very rare.
It was one of those times that I was thankful to live in such a diverse country and have opportunity to talk to people from all walks of life. You can learn so much.
Anyway, fast forward a few years and I now understand that man’s shame so much more but I have even more sympathy for him and the people of what I now know to be called Swat Valley. I also have so much more respect for Malala, and her family.
What looked like such an idyllic place to live turned into a living nightmare. To allow her to speak out, her parents were every bit as brave as Malala herself.
There are a few people that say, on the documentary and on things I’ve read, that she is just her father’s mouth piece. That he scripts her. They address this too and Malala says that it is something she wanted to do. It was her choice. I believe that…. to a point.
I think that if you grow up around people with very strong views on something then you will pick them up too. If you are around someone who is passionate for a cause, you are likely to have that passion too. If your father, whom you look up to and admire is fearless in his public condemnation of a destructive and basically evil ideology, then you will have that same feeling.
Malala’s father spoke out against the Taliban repeatedly and loudly. She was set a good example and followed in his footsteps. So was it her choice, yes. Did her father give her opportunities that other girls wouldn’t have had, yes. Did his beliefs shape her own, yes. I for one am thankful to him as much as her.
There was one bit that really stood out though. Not about Malala, although it’s a wonder she lived given the hugely unsanitary conditions of the ambulance and things. It was a soundbite from a man in Pakistan.
It was basically, and I am probably paraphrasing… “She knows nothing. She is a girl.” with a dismissive hand wave.
I was absolutely livid. But there it was. Proof. Proof that there is a section of society that believes that women are stupid. That they don’t deserve an education. That they are second class citizens. And, he said it with no shame. I was so angry that his face is literlaly burnt into my memory.
That’s when I understood some of the reasons why Mr. Yousefzai spoke up. Why he educated his daughter. Why she went on to speak. Why she continues to speak out for girls education globally.
I have met that attitide so many times in taxis in Dubai. I have been told that I cannot possibly know the best route from my office to my house. Why? Because I am a girl. Literally. That’s why he said. It pisses me off to a whole new level every time. Then I shout until we go the way I want because I am paying for a service and want to go the way I want to go. I can do that. I then get to my destination, get out of the taxi, and go on with my very, exceptionally fortunate life.
That is why I need to do something other than write this and encourage you to watch the movie too. I don’t know what I need to do, but something. I need to get involved. I need to help. I would make a terrible teacher which I know from growing up surrounded by them, but maybe I can use my organisation skills to help a not for profit (that actually is a not for profit) charity?
I don’t know what I am going to do but I am going to research and find out.