Saturday's elections may show the huge gains that Pakistan's women have been quietly consolidating.
A few months ago, international news about Pakistan was dominated by the chilling and inspiring story of Malala Yousafzai, a courageous 14-year-old who spoke out about girls’ education, faced down the Taliban to go to school in the Swat Valley, and was nearly murdered for her efforts.
It is important that her story was told. But the Western media’s fixation on it also continued the portrayal of Pakistan as a country where terrorism and the forced repression of women reign supreme. Surely this is part of the story: More than two-thirds of the five million Pakistani children who do not attend school are girls. Pakistani women are more likely than men to be illiterate and are frequently victims of domestic violence.
However, there is simultaneously a different, more hopeful story for Pakistani women. This story often remains invisible, and unfortunately skews U.S. policymaking in the region, because is furthers the misconception of Pakistan as a “lost cause.”
At a recent, thought-provoking Asia Society Women Leaders conference, I met intrepid parliamentarian and Federal Minister for Women’s Development, Attiya Inayatullah. In 2002, she pushed through a reform in 2002 that set aside 60 of the 342 seats in the country’s National Assembly (parliament’s lower house) for women. Just a decade after the bill was implemented, Pakistan’s parliament is 21.2 percent female—22.4 percent in the lower house and 16.4 percent in the upper house. This is significantly higher than 18.3, the percentage of women in the U.S. Congress.
Other honorees vary, from Mindy Kaling to Kim Jong-un.
Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people of the year is out, and the cast of inspiring characters ranges from athletes like underdog basketball superstar Jeremy Lin and religious quarterback Tim Tebow, to trend makers such as Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James and Rihanna, to a wide variety of leaders: Barack Obama, Wayne LaPierre, Kim Jong-un. Women swept this year’s Icon category, with Pakistani education activist and Malala Yousafzai, Girls creator Lena Dunham, and former representative Gabrielle Giffords receiving the title.
The story of the next Malalas: the moment the Women in the World Summit became a powerful call to action.
“We don’t let our women leave the house,” says the man on the screen, his face burned dark by the sun, his eyes sure of what he’s talking about. There is no hint of shame as he refuses even to think about letting women work in the local market. “If a girl goes to school, she becomes independent. Our response to such behavior is a bullet.”
Khalida Brohi, a young woman barely in her 20s and wearing tribal dress, looks at this elder in Pakistan’s rugged, troubled territories—the same sort of village she comes from—and says, only half as a question, “The answer to all your questions is a bullet?”
“When it comes to our honor, the only answer is a bullet,” he says.
“It’s not the girl’s fault,” counters Brohi.
The former Secretary of State said that the Taliban attack on Malala Yousafzai intended to silence the bold schoolgirl activist, but instead it 'inspired millions of Pakistanis to finally say enough is enough.'
At the Women in the World Summit, Jolie made an emotional tribute to the young Pakistani activist—who made a special appearance via video to talk about her new education fund.
At the close of the first day of the Women in the World Summit Thursday night, Angelina Jolie presented Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head by the Taliban last year because of her impassioned advocacy for girls education. Following the horrific attack, Vital Voices, with a donation from the Women in the World Foundation, established the Malala Fund to be directed by the 15-year-old. In a video address, a miraculously healthy-looking Malala announced that she will use the fund to help with the schooling of girls in Pakistan.
“This is the happiest moment of my life,” Malala told the audience, adding, “If we can educate 40 girls, we can educate 40 million girls.”
Jolie recounted the horrific circumstances of Malala’s attack, which the young girl said she had almost been expecting. Malala had nightmares about the possibility, Jolie said, and vowed that if the Taliban attempted to kill her she would “tell them that what they were trying to do was wrong, that education is our basic right.”
During her hospital stay in London, Malala's father told her that a newspaper poll named her the sixth-most-influential person in the world. The seventh was President Obama. When her father asked if that made her feel good, Malala replied, “No. I don’t think human beings should be categorized."
Undaunted by the attack on 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, two extraordinary young women are working to change the hearts and minds of Pakistan. By Janine di Giovanni.
Women like Malala Yousafzai “can only be stopped with a bullet.”
So said Khalida Brohi, the 24-year-old founder and director of the Sughar Women Program, which is dedicated to ending tribal violence against women in Pakistan. Brohi was one of two women introduced in an extraordinary session at the Women in the World Summit called “The Next Generation of Malalas.”
In Pakistan, the right to go to school is not a given. In the more rural areas, a girl is born, married off as early as 9 years old, and basically lives life under the control of men. The brutal attack on 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban for her education activism, is one that every Pakistani woman knows well. But being shot, in the words of Angelina Jolie, only "made her stronger."
'But she is also a sweet, creative, loving little girl,' said Angelina Jolie in a rousing tribute to the Pakistani teenage activist who was shot by the Taliban in October 2012. Jolie then pledged $200,000 to help educate girls in Malala's home country.
Dr. Hawa Abdi, Malala Yousafzai, and India's Kant brothers among the honorees at 12th annual Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards.
Great leaders come in many guises. A Pakistani schoolgirl fighting for the right to an education, whose near-martyrdom inspired a country to stand up to the Taliban. A Somali doctor whose modest medical camp has swelled into one of the few safe havens in her war-torn land. A Brazilian attorney fighting to ensure that domestic abusers face justice. Three brothers who founded a group—named after an Indian goddess—that wages war on the scourge of human trafficking.
On Tuesday night, eight such pioneers are being honored for their moral courage and their dedication to women’s rights at the 12th annual Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Each year, the awards celebrate heroines (and the occasional heroes) around the globe who have dedicated their lives to strengthening democracy, increasing economic opportunity, and protecting human rights. For the 2013 ceremony, Vital Voices will recognize Malala Yousafzai, the young student shot by the Taliban for her belief that all girls should be allowed an education; Dr. Hawa Abdi, the Somali ob-gyn whose displaced-persons camp outside Mogadishu houses close to 90,000 refugees and who is constantly struggling to keep Islamist militants at bay; Sandra Gomes Melo, a path-breaking Brazilian prosecutor who has fought against domestic violence and who has implemented the “Angels Project” to provide female inmates with education and job training; businesswoman Manal Yaish Zraiq, who is a tireless promoter of economic development for her Palestinian homeland; Rishi, Nishi, and Ravi Kant, whose Shakti Vahini organization combats sexual violence and the trafficking of women and girls in India; and Cambodia’s Tep Vanny, a young woman fighting to save a local lake from environmental degradation and overdevelopment. Each of them is an inspiration in their own right. The evening will also include a special tribute to the former ambassador-at-large for global women's issues and Vital Voices co-founder, Melanne Verveer. Together, they form a vision of hope for the women of tomorrow—and today.
A principal was killed in Pakistan—and three children are fighting for their lives—after a suspected Taliban attack. By U.N. special envoy for education Gordon Brown.
As pupils gathered early Saturday to receive exam results, grenades were hurled into the Baldia town school in Karachi, causing carnage. Principal Abdul Rasheed died on the spot. The perpetrators are thought to be from TPP, a Taliban terrorist sect, as their campaign of violence against girls’ education moves from the tribal areas into Pakistan’s largest city.
Pakistani schoolchildren attend their daily classes in a makeshift school set in a clay house in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Islamabad on March 27. Threats from militant groups are one of many obstacles Pakistani girls and teachers face in getting and providing an education. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP)
The latest attack follows the murder earlier this week in the Khyber tribal district of Shahnaz Nazli, a 41-year-old teacher gunned down in front of one of her children only 200 meters from the all-girls school where she taught. But this time the wave of terror attacks—orchestrated by opponents of girls’ education—is provoking a domestic and international response, a groundswell of public revulsion similar to that which followed the attempted assassination of Malala Yousafzai, who was also shot simply for wanting girls to go to school.
Today, on top of a a petition circulating on www.educationenvoy.org, calling for a cessation of violence against teachers who are defending girls’ right to go to school, a scholarship fund in honor of the slain Nazli is being announced. Education International, a world teachers organization with 30 million members, has said that the scholarship memorial to Nazli will support Pakistan teachers and students victimized simply because of their support for girls’ schooling.
To be released this fall.
Three million dollars is probably the least she deserves. After being shot in the head by a Taliban gunman simply for asserting her right to an education, Malala Yousafzai will get a chance to tell her story. The 15-year-old Pakistani activist will publish her life story this fall in a book called I Am Malala, publisher Weidenfeld & Nicolson announced Wednesday. The deal is reportedly worth three million dollars. "I want to tell my story, but it will also be the story of 61 million children who can't get education," Malala said in a press release. "I want it to be part of the campaign to give every boy and girl the right to go to school. It is their basic right."
A 41-year-old teacher at a girls’ school in Pakistan was gunned down Wednesday, the latest to give her life to educate young women. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown calls for international action to ensure that her sacrifice was not in vain.
Shahnaz Nazli today became the latest martyr in the cause of girls education.
The victim of a Malala-style shooting in Pakistan, the 41-year-old woman teacher was murdered only a few minutes from the all-girls school she taught in near the town of Jamrud in Khyber tribal district, between the northwestern city of Peshawar and the Afghan border.
Pakistani tribal residents walk past a NATO truck as it reportedly brings supplies from neighboring Afghanistan in Jamrud, in the tribal area of Khyber, Pakistan, on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. (Jibran Yousufzai/AP)
In a manner similar to the Malala shooting last October, she was shot by gunmen who fled after firing at her when she was about 200 meters from the school.
In 2009, New York Times reporter Adam B. Ellick travelled to Swat Valley, Pakistan, to profile Malala Yousafzai on the day before the Taliban closed her school. Malala was shot last Tuesday, and is recovering.
I told my kids—and you should too: Girls’ education is under threat in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and around the world. It’s time we all took a stand. By Angelina Jolie. Plus: Here’s how you can help.
As millions mark Malala Day, we must take this opportunity to guarantee access to education for all young girls by 2015.
Abigail Pesta, editorial director of Women in the World, and Kim Azzarelli, President of Women in the World Foundation, discuss Angelina Jolie's moving column on the attempted murder of Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban for promoting girls' education. How you can help: womenintheworld.org/malala
Pakistan and Afghanistan have released waves of Taliban prisoners in a goodwill gesture—but instead of returning home, the radicals are rejoining the fight.
Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakistani activist who was shot last week by the Taliban and is now fighting for her life, has captivated the world with her heroic campaign for women's rights-but she isn't alone in her efforts. Documentarian Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy sat down with The Daily Beast to discuss the growing movement of women trying to 'change the narrative' in her country.