You have probably seen in the news that 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai is a co-recipient of this year's Nobel Peace Prize. Awarded last week, she is the youngest recipient to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize, and of course, it's highly deserved. Malala is a Pakistani activist, blogger and author, fighting for women's rights, particularly the education of young girls.
In 2009, Malala began writing anonymously for the BBC about girl's education and the Taliban taking over the area where she lived. Over time, the situation escalated: rights were taken away; the Taliban gained control; many families, including Malala's, were displaced. After receiving several death threats, Malala and her family began to fear for their lives.
In 2012, a masked gunman entered her school bus and asked for her by name. After he shot her in the head, she was in critical condition for some time. Doctors say she is lucky to be alive. Her assassination attempt brought worldwide attention to the issues at hand, resulting in Pakistan's first right to education bill. All of this raised awareness to the fact that millions of children around the world are denied education every day because of social, economic and political factors. Her project, The Malala Fund, raises awareness and gives voice to girls all over the world who have had their education taken right out of their hands.
I believe Malala's story has something to teach us all.
As a young mother and woman, I am deeply inspired by Malala and how she has changed the world. I have watched several interviews with her and I have read parts of her book—I am continually amazed at the courage and passion she possesses. As an American mother, it can be easy to sit back and ignore Malala and her story. My girls live a safe, happy life. They get to go to school. It's something I certainly take for granted.
Millions of children around the world are denied education and other basic rights for all kinds of reasons. I can't pretend that I understand what that must be like. But I also can't ignore it. I believe Malala's story has something to teach us all. I think Malala wants us to be a part of the conversation.
Here are 5 things Malala can teach us about raising girls.
1. Don't clip their wings.
When Malala's father Ziauddin Yousafzai was asked why she's so great, his response was, "I didn't clip her wings." I think about this in the day-to-day with my girls: How do I hold them back? How do I encourage them? How does a comment like "don't get your dress dirty" change the way they view themselves? Instead of clipping their wings, we need to let them soar.
2.Education is everything.
We need to see education with new eyes.
It's easy to get down about schools in America. We complain about the Common Core and our kids use the phrase "I hate school" as their daily mantra. But I think we need to see education with new eyes. There is so much value in it. As Malala's dad says, "You give a girl an education and she will do the rest herself." We need to help our daughters love to learn and to value it—to do their best and to thank their lucky stars they have an opportunity that is stolen from millions around the world.
3.Dads can be feminists, too.
You heard me right, guys. We need dads to stand up for women's rights. We needs dads to teach girls that they are just as capable and just as deserving as men. We need to raise boys to respect women and to value them. We are living in the generation that has the potential to change the world for women.
4.It's a hard knock life.
We've got to teach our girls to get back up when they fall down.
It's true that the fight is worth it, but it's hard, too. Malala suffered a bullet to the head. Instead of backing down or giving in to those who wanted her dead, she used their attack to fuel her passion even more. We've got to teach our girls to get back up when they fall down. We've got to teach them to use the negative voices around them to propel them even more into their cause.
Malala is a teenager in a country where women and girls are oppressed and targeted by those that do not value them one bit. If she can change the world, anyone can. We need to teach our girls that they, too, can make a difference. It doesn't matter their age or gender or race or religion. Their voice is powerful and valuable and deserves to be heard.