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

Published: November 29, 2015

Malala’s story proves one can change the world, and that age and gender are no hurdles.

“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)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • https://twitter.com/shoaib_112 Mirza Shoaib Ahmad Jarral

    You know what, not she but actually you deserve Noble Prize for writing about her. ya really.Recommend

  • asma akhter

    “She is helping build a much needed bridge between the Muslim world and the West”. Seriously???? duhhhRecommend

  • Talha Maqsood

    no comment could be betterRecommend

  • Alter Ego

    I will agree with you if you will tell me what has she accomplished.

    Has she opened free schools for girls.
    Saved thousands of children from bonded labor.
    Saved lives of many pregnant women.
    Made free YouTube educational lectures for students across the world.
    Fought for education in Pakistan.

    Under all that glitter and glamour and western media propoganda, list her contributions that has helped her fellow Pakistani.Recommend

  • Alter Ego

    Giving away Noble Prizes to further your political agenda.
    It is an insult to all those people who have literally spent thousands and thousands and thousands of hours to master their fields and make a difference.
    Be it medicine , literature , physics , humanitarian cause.Recommend

  • raj

    Please elaborate on your dissension. I bet you don’t have any idea about the level of work Malala Fund is doing at the momentRecommend

  • raj

    and why do you think the article or malala does not deserve the praise ?Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/shoaib_112 Mirza Shoaib Ahmad Jarral

    Malala? i wish could say who is she..?Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/shoaib_112 Mirza Shoaib Ahmad Jarral

    give me one reason that why should i even think about it?Recommend

  • raj

    You want one reason. Here it is. The thing at the moment is Pakistan has been embarrassed in the world several times for known reasons some of it are pathetic foreign policy, black sheeps at its own backyard and many more. Having said that, Pakistan needs to wash its sins otherwise the world doesn’t (and will not) care about Pakistan and Pakistanis. If someone says they don’t need and care what world thinks and we are not doing something wrong, then I am afraid to say that is a big ILLUSION bcz the Pakistanis living in other countries have to bear the fruits of wrong doings. Coming back to the point, Pakistan need a mouth piece that the world listens to. If you want the world to listen to you then you need people like Malala or Sharmeen Obaid so the world can change its perception that Pakistanis are not that bad as media portrays. Backing up Malala is in our favour bcz again people all the world still thinks we don’t own our people which suggests we own those ruthless terrorists.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/shoaib_112 Mirza Shoaib Ahmad Jarral

    Pak needs to wash his sins right, first tell me your Holy Country Name.
    Second we have lot more deserving and Un-heard people but we won’t appreciate a selective person by them on basis of Fabricated incident and propaganda. All though a person abuse your religion and embrace others just to please them and those so called Others give them reward + Award… we don’t need both of them.Recommend

  • raj

    My country is none of your business.. when you open up your mouth for discussion, please discuss without country, race or creed. Should I call you a racist on this ?
    Who are you to say that Pak needs to wash sins right and it has done sinful. I would say you are still doing it without realising the fact that your country’s name is all in the mud bcz of such acts. Secondly, I know there are hundreds unheard around the world who work day and night and never get credit. Malala was lucky enough to get a voice and now instead of cashing on it and use the voice to clear your image, you people are actually comparing her to others. Its like Aam nahi khana or gulti ke daam pooch rahy ho. Wake up. Use the name to your advantage. Own her and she can do wonders for Pakistan just with her name. Half of the world admires her and will listen to her (not you or me). Obama is not reading this conversation of ours. But if malala says that Pakistan has potential, Obama and other people will listen to it. Im sure people like you are not understanding.. She is not pleasing anyone. You are still sympathising taliban on what they did.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/shoaib_112 Mirza Shoaib Ahmad Jarral

    “None of your business” So mature of you and Please keep in within the four walls of your house and do not bring that in public. then it becomes my business.Recommend

  • raj

    Yes, i stick to my words. Country, religion where i belong to is non of your business and its my maturity to discuss topics of social concern with your without being racist towards you. Grow up and start talking like adult on main issue without trying to show mirror to others.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/shoaib_112 Mirza Shoaib Ahmad Jarral

    Loll..OK big guy!
    “Grow up, Grow up”…these so called unnecessary wake up calls showing your inner insecurity so just avoid for a second.
    Well its not about people who got admiration and unheard people but its political sagacity and hypocrisy which is completely supporting these Clowns. let me give you an Example.
    “There are two different families.one of them is big and other one is small.they both are opposed to each other but against a lot. Big Family Fabricated drama in small house by using their spy agents.then they started praising that Clown and supporting them.What it means? Take it simple like a story which i have made pretty simple for you.”
    all though its childish for me and others but if it could help you to understand.that would be my pleasure.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/shoaib_112 Mirza Shoaib Ahmad Jarral

    why you are betting everywhere bro? you got a Cut from money which she got? lolRecommend

  • raj

    Answer me simply what proof do you have that the incident that happened with Malala was staged ?? No proof. Its just Pakistani media that has made you think like that. I m showing you finger point and you are trying to see the hand. The example was really amateurish from your part and from an educated guy like you. My question is who are people to point some one a “Clown”. Mind you, devil for someone is always hero for someone else. I m saying whether you think she is staged drama, still Pakistanis need to support her and use the brand that is Malala to get a good name around the world. Just imagine the world is sinking in the glory of Malala and Pakistan is trying to wash their hand off in a dirt. Think about the brand Malala that can help thousands suffering in Pakistan.Recommend

  • raj

    Again, instead of giving fruitful and thorough discussions, you are beating about the bush. This happens when you don’t have concrete point to prove here.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/shoaib_112 Mirza Shoaib Ahmad Jarral

    Ya a Concrete Gem like that”I bet you don’t have any idea about the level of work Malala Fund” …?

  • https://twitter.com/shoaib_112 Mirza Shoaib Ahmad Jarral

    Proof ? you must be a camera man at that time of dramatic scene ryt? come on, its common sense which isn’t common in your case. and
    the example was purely made for you according to your mindset actually.
    well for the sake of your words which you mouth and eulogize remorselessly,list her contribution that has helped the rest of the nation..?even a single one?
    and tell me if a person is representing your society without being selective by nation, but others, how can you blindly support that so-called Brand? what make you think that Others won’t use that Clown or your Hero as handkerchief for their own ulterior motives with malicious intention like their agencies do. Think before you mouth, at-least for once.
    now plz again, don’t give GEM like “You have no idea.”Recommend