Pakistani teen inspires local girls
The teenage Pakistani activist shot by terrorist bullies after speaking out for the rights of girls to go to school is a symbol of courage and determination to a pair of area high school students who say they don’t take their educations for granted.
In many ways, Malala Yousafzai’s story has also mirrored the bravery of women pioneers throughout America’s history who have faced challenges, threats and intimidation for advocating and pursuing better educational opportunities.
St. Joseph’s Academy senior Amelia Fuselier, who, like Yousafzai, wants to go to medical school, said she is thankful to live in a country where she has the freedom to pursue her dreams.
“My plans to attend medical school would be an impossibility in many other places… I admire this young girl so much. To knowingly risk one’s safety in asserting one’s beliefs requires more courage than most individuals possess. Malala is a hero to other women in her position for declaring herself and all other girls worthy of education,” Fuselier said.
Yousafzai first gained attention three years ago when she wrote a diary for the BBC about life under the Taliban, which controlled the Swat valley from 2007 through 2009 and ordered schools for girls to close.
Yousafzai was leaving school when a Taliban gunman boarded the bus she was riding on her way home in the Swat valley, Pakistan, and shot her in the head on Oct. 9. Though Yousafzai is still recovering in a British hospital, the Taliban have said they will target her again, accusing her of promoting Western ideals.
Another senior planning to pursue a career in medical research said Yousafzai’s determination is infectious.
“Malala is truly a hero and a champion of women’s right to education; even in the face of danger, she passionately advocated equal educational opportunities for women,” said Caroline Focht, a senior at St. Joseph’s Academy.
Early acts of bravery and courage have also shaped educational opportunities for women and people of color in America.
Remember Ruby Bridges, a black girl who at the age of 6 heroically (with federal escorts by her side) walked through jeering crowds, some holding Rebel flags, into the then-all white William Frantz Elementary Public School in New Orleans in 1960. Her efforts helped to desegregate schools, offering improved educational opportunities for all.
Before the mid-1800s, women were primarily confined to learning how to perform domestic and caretaking work, according to a study on “The Education of Girls and Women in the United States: A Historical Perspective” by Jennifer Madigan of San Jose State University. Single-gender education focused on preparing boys to attend town schools which girls were not allowed to attend until the 19th century. Toward the end of the 19th century, some state colleges allowed women to enroll. By the early 20th century, most public, secondary schools and colleges had become predominately coeducational. In the early 1970s several laws were passed making it illegal to discriminate in public schools on the basis of sex in areas such as admission practices, athletics, financial aid and more.
The world is also watching to see whether Yousafzai’s advocacy work could also inspire change for young girls in her country.
“I hope, as I know she (Malala) does, that her story will bring change in the lives of the young women who are denied the rights I so freely enjoy,” Fuselier said.
Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.