He Named Me Malala is the story of an ordinary girl who made a tough choice

Published: November 29, 2015

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

This bit of wisdom comes from Paulo Coelho, in his bestseller, The Alchemist.

The other day when I was watching the film He Named Me Malala, the incredible story of the youngest Noble laureate and activist for education from the Swat district of Pakistan, Coelho’s wise words echoed in my heart. I realised that once an individual decides to stand up with courage and conviction for a great cause, nothing can stop him/her from achieving their goals. One just needs to conquer the fear of failure.

He Named Me Malala is directed by the Academy Award winner Davis Guggenheim who spent 18 months with Malala and her family for this project. The documentary covers Malala’s family life in her adopted home in Birmingham and her journey from the assassination attack by the Taliban to her United Nations address, receiving the Noble Peace Prize and beyond.

I believe the documentary challenges stereotypes at many levels. It has educated millions, like me, to examine our traditional worldview.

Here’s how her story is important.

It challenges the ills of gender discrimination and speaks for all women.

We live in a patriarchy where men are supposed to lead in almost every walk of life. The birth of a girl is often unwelcomed in certain villages. When it comes to remote areas, girls remain deprived of proper education and even nutrition, and they have little or no role in making their own decisions. That is evident from the fact that we hear the tragic news of vaniswara and karo kari so very often.

Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala’s father, however, chose a different path. He didn’t clip her wings, instead he felt proud when she was born. He provided her with education and blessed her with equal opportunities. He didn’t impose anything on her. Malala herself chose this challenging path for herself. He, an educational activist, let Malala speak up, not only for herself but for girls all over the world.

Malala’s story proves one can change the world, and that age and gender are not hurdles.

She started writing Urdu blogs for BBC with the pseudonym Gul Makai in 2009At that time, she was just 12-years-old. Those were difficult days; the Taliban had issued threats against girls’ education and had blown up schools. Moreover, the sight of public execution and headless corpses was common, and the writ of the state was nowhere. While everyone was scared, Ziauddin remained firm and continued to run his schools. Malala started penning blogs highlighting the atrocities of the Taliban and shared her dream to continue education.

Despite being shot in the head, she refused to be shunned. Instead her voice reached the far corners of the world. She is now no more a lone voice from the remote region of Swat but a global ambassador of change.

She is helping build a much needed bridge between the Muslim world and the West.

Malala is a proud Muslim and a Pakistani. She, in her traditional attire and covered head, represents the culture and common women of Pakistan. She has presented a positive image of Pakistan wherever she has gone. She has shown the world that there are Muslims who are struggling for a peaceful world and need support from the global community.

She was asked in the film,

All this time, you’ve never felt angry?”

She replied,

No. Not even as small as an atom. Or maybe a nucleus of an atom. Or maybe a proton. Or maybe a quark.”

Malala Yousafzai, named after Malalai of Maiwand, the Anglo-Afghan war hero, has turned into a symbol of the hope for millions of women across the world. 

Her campaign is no longer limited to Swat, but has become a powerful voice for more than 60 million girls who are deprived of education. She is a source of inspiration for them. They believe if Malala can do it, they can do it too.

Malala Fund, her organisation, has initiated education projects for girls in Kenya, Nigeria and Pakistan, as well as Syrian refugee girls who have moved to Jordan and Lebanon.

Not so long ago, people across the globe used to respond negatively to my country on social media. Now, I feel proud telling them that I belong to Malala’s Pakistan. However, it disheartens me when some of my fellow countrymen believe in silly conspiracy theories and speak ill of her.

The documentary He Named Me Malala is a great source of inspiration for children, especially girls. I urge all schools to show it to their students. She is living proof of the fact that heroes do exist, and they’re just as ordinary as you and me. She goes to school, she does her homework, she plays Candy Crush and card games with her family, she uses Google, she smiles and cries as well.

He Named Me Malala is the story of an ordinary girl who made a tough choice and stood up for a cause larger than life. And that makes all the difference.

Nayyar Afaq

Nayyar Afaq

He is pursuing a doctorate in Physics from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad and his objective in life is to become a better human being. Nayyar tweets @Nay_Af (twitter.com/Nay_Af)

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