Today, in the Swat region of Pakistan, a 14 year old girl was shot. Her name is Malala Yousafzai, and she was walking home from school with her friend when she was shot in the side of the head. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the shooting.
The question on all our minds is ‘Why would anyone try and kill a 14 year old girl?’.
Because Malala Yousafzai stood up for something that scares and horrifies the Taliban – she dared to speak out for girls’ right to an education.
Malala was 11 years old when she started writing about life under the Taliban – two years after they closed her school. They have since been ejected from the region, but Malala has continued to speak out, and has been nominated for a peace award for her activism.
This isn’t the first time the Taliban has stooped so low as to attack children. They have been linked to arson attacks on schools across Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as being linked to poisonings in girl’s schools. Thousands of students have been forced to stay at home.
For the Taliban, educating women is un-Islamic and immodest. Girls over the age of eight were denied an education under Taliban rule in Afghanistan. The women’s university was quickly shut down shortly after they came to power. A network of secret schools for girls was set up, but the risks if they were discovered were severe. Even after being removed from power, their influence is still visible.
It’s easy to see why the Taliban would want to restrict education. They do so in the name of Islam, but a brand of Islam unrecognisable to the majority of Muslims worldwide. Banning women’s education has more to do with power and control than religion.
When we are educated, we are given the potential to shape our own world. Literacy and numeracy are critical for employment, self-sufficiency and independence. It allows us to live our own lives, to think for ourselves, to develop our full potential. But without education, we have no future, no way of choosing our own direction. Without knowledge to base our own decisions on, what choice is there but to blindly follow the path that others set out for us. The uneducated population is easily controlled.
This isn’t just an issue in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Worldwide, 75 million girls are missing out on an education. That’s one in three girls who are being denied control over their own futures – denied the ability to escape poverty, to fulfil their potential.
Thursday is the first International Day of the Girl, and Plan are speaking out about the need for women’s education. If you believe, like Malala does, like I do, that everyone deserves an education, sign Plan’s petition, and Raise Your Hand.