I have followed the story of Malala Yousafazi, the Pakistani girl targeted by the Taliban, ever since news broke that she was shot on a bus on her way from school when she was 15. Malala captured the world’s attention by standing up for what she believes. The story of her survival and triumph of being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize was covered in depth by news organizations the world over, and being covered in a documentary about her life called He Named Me Malala.
In patriarchal societies, women are expected to be obedient. A good girl should be quiet, humble, and submissive. Malala’s activism, and what made her such a high profile target as a 15-year-old, was because she used her voice in the role of advocate for others. Her father encouraged her to ask questions, demand answers, and seek the truth. As an educator, he taught all of his students that it was imperative that they all learn to think critically and stand up for what is right.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the whys of what happened to Malala. Then I look at my 15-year-old son and I sit back and try to remember 15-year-old me. I wasn’t afraid. I wanted to change the world, just like my son dreams of doing now, and that Malala works so tirelessly for every day of her life. Deep respect, admiration, and overwhelming emotion I can only describe as “motherly” is how I feel about the work she is doing.
Memoirs, such as I Am Malala, are a powerful witness to history. I had the great pleasure of sitting a few feet away from holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel in 2010, author of Night (1955), and looking back at what I wrote about him, and the quotes I hurriedly scribbled down, I find one that I feel connects him and Malala: “I must think of those who suffer today and not about me.”
Malala suffered greatly, yet works tirelessly for others. Instead of being a now 19-year-old girl worried about typical 19-year-old girl issues, the assassination attempt on her life changed the trajectory of her life. Those changes are what cause her to work to change the lives of other girls who deserve an education.
This Monday, February 29, the National Geographic Channel will premiere He Named Me Malala commercial free at 8 p.m. EST. While I have watched He Named Me Malala at the theater, I’ll be setting my DVR to record this special showing Monday evening and encourage you to do the same thing. If you’re not sure if it’s appropriate for your kids, read this post from TechSavvy Mama: 4 Reasons for Tweens to See He Named Me Malala.
Malala hasn’t taken her survival for granted, nor the lessons her father taught her lightly. She is now a leading campaigner for girls’ education globally as co-founder of the Malala Fund. In this film, documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim shows how Malala, her father Zia and her family are committed to fighting for education for all girls worldwide. It’s a glimpse into her life, sharing Malala’s relationship with her father, speeches at the UN, as well as her daily life with her parents and brothers.
“It’s a combination of Ziauddin and Toor Pekai that has created this incredible girl,” the director says. “Ziauddin obviously has a close relationship with Malala. He has that wonderful quote: ‘Don’t ask me what I did. Ask me what I didn’t do. I didn’t clip her wings.’ And there’s that special moment when she’s born and he says to her, you’re equal to all the men that are on the family tree. But I also believe Toor Pekai is where Malala gets her moral strength and her faith.”
Malala’s work has is also creating change for women of different generations. Her mother, Toor Pekai, had one year of formal education and is now in school. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be entering school as an adult, but I applaud her. Education is something that can never be taken away from us. It is one of the most important things we can do, not only for ourselves, but for others.
Thoughts of Toor Pekai make me think of my mother-in-law. Raised in Korea during Japanese occupation, she is one of the most intelligent women I know. Due to the death of her parents when she was a child, exorbitant school fees which an orphan couldn’t afford, she received what is equivalent to a 6th grade education. This has caused her to push for the best education, for her and her children, with a burning passion.
I want to do more to show I’m #withMalala, but don’t know where to start.
Social media is one of the easiest ways to start using your voice to advocate for change. Visit supportmalala.com to create a custom Facebook profile video (it’s super easy!) to show your support. For every person who participates through March 10, 2016, 21st Century Fox will donate $1 to the Malala Fund. A $1 donation will also be made for every tweet using the hashtag #withMalala during this time period, for a total donation up to $50,000.
Not sure what to Tweet?
Start by encouraging your followers to join you on Monday to watch the documentary or share that for every #withMalala tweet, 21st Century Fox wil donate $1. Here are tweets that you can copy, paste, schedule, and encourage your followers to retweet!
#HeNamedMeMalala premieres commercial free on @natgeochannel 2/29 @ 8/7c! Stand #withMalala + watch with your family on.natgeo.com/1VbVWaJ
#HeNamedMeMalala premiers on @natgeochannel 2/29 at 8/7c. See it and stand #withMalala! on.natgeo.com/1VbVWaJ
Mark your calendar to stand #withMalala for girls’ ed. #HeNamedMeMalala premiering on @natgeochannel on.natgeo.com/1VbVWaJ
Like to tweet? Support girls’ ed? For every #withMalala tweet til 3/10 @21CF will donate $1 to @MalalaFund. Pls RT
I’m standing #withMalala + @21CF will donate $1 to @MalalaFund. Show girls everywhere you stand for their right to edu. Pls RT
Are you looking for information that will help you understand Malala’s background, the documentary, and the history of the Swat Valley in Pakistan? These resources are great tools and will not only further your understanding, but will also help answer any difficult questions that might come up with your children.
He Named Me Malala Curriculum Guide— Designed for teachers, the official curriculum guide for the documentary is a free downloadable PDF that features ways to develop understanding, essential questions, notes to educators, additional resources and the standards that are being addressed through each lesson. It’s perfect for classroom teacher and homeschooling families who are studying Malala.
Education World’s Malal Yousafzai’s Courage: Student Discussion Guide — rich discussion questions that appear halfway down the page. Questions like “If you were a 16-year-old girl in Pakistan, could you have imagined doing what Malala did? What do you admire about Malala?” ask kids to put themsevels in Malala’s shoes but also dive deeper into bigger issues such as womens’ rights.
I am Malala: A Resource Guide for Educators— This guide published by The Global Women’s Institute at The George Washington University is best for high schoolers who have read the I am Malala book.
I was not compensated for this post but am receiving a house party kit for our own He Named Me Malala viewing party. All opinions are my own.