The Next Malalas- 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."
Humaira Bachal, founder and president of the Dream Foundation Trust, works in her village to start schools. The dream of a school is taken for granted by so many. But women like her and Brohi—the new Malalas—are fighting so that all girls have the right to an education, and that what happened to Malala will never happen again.
Filmmaker Sharmeen OBaid Chinoy uses her camera to expose the plight of Pakistani women. Asked by moderator Christiane Amanpour whether she is able to make her powerful films because she is a woman, she responded, “The very reason I am alive is that there is a certain level of respect people have because I am a woman. When they see a woman who looks them in the eye, sometimes they don't know how to look at me."
Who are the new Malalas? They are the women in Pakistan who are launching initiatives on the grassroots level to change a sexist mindset deeply entrenched in Pakistani society. They are brave, because they are fighting against men who believe that women who are educated become too independent. Their independence is a threat.
Khalida’s father warned her that doing this work would kill her. She responded, “Doing this work will keep me alive."