Every now and again, I see a compelling story about a teenager who is striving to make a significant difference in our world. One such individual is Malala Yousafzai, a 17-year-old from Pakistan who has openly spoken against the Taliban.
One person can change the world
In early 2009, Malala began blogging for the BBC about living under the Taliban’s threats to deny her an education. In order to hide her identity, she used the name Gul Makai. However, by December that year, she was revealed to be the BBC blogger.
With a growing public platform, Malala continued to speak out about her right and the right of all women to receive an education. Her activism resulted in a nomination for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011. That same year, she was awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize.
Malala faces trauma
On October 9, 2012 Malala was riding a bus on her way home from school. A man boarded her bus and demanded to know which student was Malala. Some of the girls looked at her which gave away her identity. The man shot her in the head. The bullet went down into her neck. The man then shot two of Malala’s friends.
As a result of the shooting, a portion of Malala’s skull had to be removed to deal with the swelling of her brain and she was placed in a medically induced coma. Eventually, she was flown to Birmingham, England, where she underwent multiple surgeries.
Since the shooting, Malala has been an advocate for women and specifically for women’s education. On her 17th birthday she flew 14 hours to Nigeria to plead for the safe return and education for over 200 Nigerian girls who had been kidnapped from their school. Some girls who had escaped openly stated their fear of going back to school. However, each of them wanted to return to school at some time. This fearful hope inspires them to continue speaking out.
Malala will be meeting with the Nigerian President in hope to secure the safe return of these girls and ensure their opportunity for education. Families and friends are waiting for the kidnapped girls to return safely.
Malala has inspired thousands of women and leaders to protect and educate women.
She has a mission to “bring back the girls” in countries where women have been threatened or treated with violence, oppression and enslavement. These issues remain a very serious problem in the global community.
As I think of these issues from a trauma-informed perspective, I have another wish. I wish we could bring to these girls a new awareness of their own trauma, and how it has impacted them neurologically. Further, I wish we could provide therapy and brain-based interventions in order to help them. They deserve that support, and hopefully, one day it will be available globally to them and others who suffer similar traumatic experiences.
It is inspiring to witness the impact one teenager can have in the world. Malala is a courageous and compassionate teenager who has used her crisis to help and inspire girls and leaders globally to stand for the rights of our young women to be safe and to be educated. She is someone we should all follow. We should support her campaign to bring back the girls!
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network