This is the story of a 17-year-old girl whose passion cannot be wrested from her heart.
Born in a repressive, misogynistic country, she fought for education and women’s rights and braved a life-threatening attack by Taliban insurgents.
On Friday, my chest ached with the feeling of a full heart as I watched her receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
Her name is Malala Yousafzai, and she is a beacon of hope in an otherwise backwards society — a silver lining of a dark storm cloud.
I sometimes can’t help but give wind to the parallels that exist between Malala’s life and my own: we both are Pakistani-Muslim women who are marginalized by our gender, our ethnicity and our faith.
Malala resisted these limitations, as she experienced firsthand the oppression that so persistently defines her advocacy.
But I was born in the United States, and my basic rights are secured. Pakistan is borne in me, but its tales of oppression seem too distant.
While I sit in the comfort of my home 7,757 miles away, Malala works to reverse Pakistan’s stained status quo, resisting patriarchal terror and furthering her forbidden love for education.
She works on my behalf, and on the behalves of Pakistanis worldwide. But this gratitude is not reflected throughout all of Pakistan.
The cries from the country’s conservatives echo a deep-rooted desire for pity. “There are other children who are just as affected by this fundamentalist society,” they ask. “Where are their prizes?”
Yes, to the world’s dismay, many oppressed children live in Pakistan. But Malala’s recognition does not undermine their plight; it gives visibility to the situation. She highlights a reality that is too often forgotten.
Other conspiracy theories continue to spread in Pakistan — the vast majority deeming her nothing more than a byproduct of western imperialization.
Some may even call her a traitor, or a “salesperson” whose fight against the Taliban was staged by the West.
How can Pakistan work to shift its national discourse, to alter the mindsets of people who harbor such entrenched ideologies of skepticism and bigotry?
The answer is simple: Education.
I think that the best way to solve problems […] is through dialogue, is through peaceful way, but for me the best way to fight against terrorism and extremism is just simple thing: educate the next generation. – Malala Yousafzai
So, a teenage girl exemplified the essence of peaceful resistance by demanding fundamental human rights, and she was made a stranger in her own home – driven out of the very country she was trying to protect.
Pakistan, does this make sense?
In her acceptance speech, the humble teen thanked her father for not clipping her wings and for letting her fly.
I hope that one day, all children in Pakistan can spread their wings and learn to fly.