Malala Yousafzai is a well-known name all over the world. She is a fifteen-year-old girl who was nearly assassinated and who has won the Nobel Peace Prize. All because she believes in something that some people believe she shouldn’t.
There is a documentary about Malala, and her family, that came out November 6th in the UK. It is called He Named Me Malala, which refers to the deep and loving relationship that Malala has with her father, who essentially raised her to have the opportunities to make changes in the world. She grew up in a heavily patriarchal society, but her father wanted her to have a voice and to be able to use it however she wished. Malala feels that she owes him a lot.
The documentary focuses on Malala’s charity for education for women in Africa and the Middle East. This is Malala’s whole mantra—that women should be as equally educated, or have equal opportunity for education, as men. And she has received quite a bit of backlash about it, from many different cultures across the world. But she has received even more praise and thanks for her efforts, one in the form of the Nobel Peace Prize, and another in the form of thousands of young girls now getting the chance to learn alongside young boys.
But the documentary also focuses—perhaps even more so—on the family dynamic that brought about this modern saint in the form of a young girl. It reveals Malala’s close connection to her family, and her close connection to her father. Her father, Ziauddin, says that he named her Malala after an old warior-heroine, Malalai. He wanted her to be as strong and to have as much of a weighty voice in the world as Malalai. And his wish certainly came true, though he does say that even from birth, Malala had her own way of thinking and her own goals. He claims that he only brought her into the world, and that she was the one who was determined to do something with her life. And while she was assaulted, almost killed, and experiences anxiety every day because of the heavy burden on her, she still has done something that she feels makes her life worth it.
Malala’s story is so inspirational to me. I have grown up completely taking my education for granted. I’ve spent half of my life sitting in classes, alongside the boys, and not even thinking twice about my inherent ability to learn with them. Or it should be inherent. Malala has made me realize that there are millions of girls in the world who do not have what I have, and the ability to learn and be educated is not inherent, though it should be. People would even go so far as to kill to keep women educational levels from rising higher than they already have, as evidenced by half of Malala’s face being paralyzed from her injury in 2012.
Every woman can learn from Malala’s example—that if you’re a woman it does not matter how old you are, where you are, or what you have done. You can accomplish anything you set your heart on.