Popular media loves to display a teenage girl who’s at best, the love interest in every coming-of-age indie movie or at worst, a narcissus of the modern age. Until 2012, the courage and grace of the teenage girl was rarely brought to the attention of the media. But, when Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban after standing up for education, she transformed from a Pakistani activist to a universal symbol of the vitality and resilience of the teenage girl.
Ironically, it was her shooting that brought attention to the true challenges a teenage girl faces in any part of the world. Her voice, exposed through the pages of her book and speeches, is a source for true inspiration for any teenage girl as it cuts through the oversaturation of negative images we’re constantly exposed to. For me, Malala’s voice and her recognition of the universal need for equality is the most inspirational message, as it allows me to embark on my college journey with a new perspective and a sharper focus.
Many would say that Malala’s message is a true source for inspiration. And though her message of universal education for every girl is one worthy of praise, it is Malala’s voice that provides the animus needed for her message to be authentic.
Malala’s endeavor to find her voice as she delivers her message not only allows that message to be stronger, but also inspires other teenage girls to find their own voices.
Malala admits in her book I Am Malala that while she is always a “bit nervous” before she speaks to a Pakistani audience, she still challenges the Taliban leaders when she asks, “how dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” Even when the Taliban bans Malala from going to school she asserts that the “Taliban could take [her] pens and books, but that they couldn’t stop [her] mind from thinking.” Even when “400 schools had been destroyed by the Taliban,” Malala used her voice to fight them in any way she could.
Her remarkable words rise above the destruction of her society and lifestyle and they vivify the same sentiments buried in anyone. For me, Malala’s slightly apprehensive yet righteous tone is what gives me strength to speak my own mind whenever I am in a male-dominated environment.
I hope that I will be able to continue representing the unique voices of many women.
Malala’s understanding of the universal need for women’s rights inspires me in my college journey, as well as in my efforts to help others find equal opportunity in their communities, especially that of an education. Throughout her story, Malala finds that her society does not even grant basic rights to women, even though these women take care of children and form the backbone of society.
In my life, academia and the field of philosophy in particular has glossed over the opinions and perspectives of many women who have tried to shift modes of thinking. I hope throughout the next phase of my academic and personal life I will be able to confidently represent the unique voices of many women who have different philosophies and world views, bringing it more attention. Though this maybe a small part of the conversation, it is still derived from Malala’s message of “peace in every home, every street, every village and every country.”
Malala’s story and mission inspires me to also apply those same goals to my life. Throughout the autobiography, she is shaped by and forms her ideals so they can be universal, affecting everyone in her society. Her courage in even questioning the political structure of her society show that small and large actions can affect a community in a very strong way.
Malala’s optimism and determination to fight for social change despite the prejudice in her culture and community inspires me to stay true to my goals and myself. As she defines her path and dreams for society, I’ve also learned to conceptualize my ideal world and question how I am going to get there. Ultimately, it is in this journey of finding answers to problems that plague our society that truly lead inspiration to aspiration. I know both Malala and myself will continue finding guidance and social revolutionaries in our communities.
Cover image via almadinainstitute.org.
Also published on Medium.