Re-thinking the narratives about Malala

A few weeks ago, I wrote a short post about Malala Yousafzai, hailing her as a young hero. I have since had time to reflect on that, especially when I came across this article in Tanqeed. You should go read the whole thing, but I will summarize a few points.

First of all, the author, Orbala,makes it clear that millions of girls and women go to school in Pakistan. It’s not as if depriving women of an education was public policy in Pakistan; it’s more a family affair, though perhaps (and please correct me if I’m wrong), in some parts of the North where the Taliban has some strength, they try to close all schools for girls. I don’t know what the real situation is, but this seems to be what Malala was fighting against.

Next, there is the argument that the West uses Malala for political purposes. In one respect, the objective is to feed into the narrative that Pakistan is an “enemy”, that it harbors terrorists, that there is widespread conflict, poverty and human rights violations. Presenting Malala’s shooting in this light helps to further that image.

But there is also something else. The US is sending drones into Pakistan, killing people of all ages, including children who just happened to be living in a particular area. Talking about Malala obscures these deaths, keeps us from asking why this is happening. However, it  begs the opposite question: it is about which children matter (for the West, obviously.) For the US, it seems, the children that matter are its own, or the ones that help it foster its political and international goals.

So, I still believe Malala Yousafzai is a hero. Not every child her age has the courage to speak out for what s/he believes in. However, let us try to not fall into the narrative that we are being fed (and here, by ‘we’, I mean those of us living in non-Muslim countries and who get our international news from US and, to a lesser extent, European companies).

I apologize if my previous post served to further this narrative. And thank you, Orbala, for making me think about this from a different perspective.

Acerca de Xalaila

Licenciada en Relaciones Internacionales, próxima Maestra en Terrorismo y Seguridad, activista en derechos humanos, feminista.
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4 respuestas a Re-thinking the narratives about Malala

  1. Pingback: Who Is Malala Yousafzai? « THE SCARECROW

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  4. orbala dijo:

    Thank you for this post🙂 I just now got to read it!
    Your assessment is largely correct. I woudln’t say the ban on female education was/is a family affair, but you’re certainly correct that the issue wasn’t that girls in Swat are not allowed to go to school, which is what the media wants us to believe. The issue at heart was that Malala stood up to the Taliban — at a time when anyone did (and continues to do so) was and continues to be killed. It’s always worrying to continue to hear people say “Malala is fighting for girls’ education in Pakistan”… yes, she is, and that’s wonderful (and I admire Malala in every way), but there’s a much bigger context to her story (I attempt to sketch this here: http://orbala.blogspot.com/2012/11/malala-in-context-mullah-fazlullah-and.html).

    Thank you again for this!

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