Malala: The Road to Recovery

In the two and a half months since Malala was shot, there has been a lot of “buzz” about her. The “Malala Movement” has gained a lot of momentum during that time. The assassination attempt has served as a wake-up call for the Pakistani people. Her story has also captivated the international media’s attention and garnered support from the global community.

In this photograph released on October 20, 2012, Malala is pictured in her hospital bed in Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.

An Update on Her Recovery

On October 15 (less than a week after being shot), she was transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB) in the UK, because of its expertise in gunshot and blast injuries. The hospital wrote almost daily updates about her progress from the October 16 until November 16. These entries can be viewed here.

A summary of her injuries, as a result of being shot at point blank range, included:

  • A bullet hit her left brow and went underneath her skin, the whole length of the side of her head and into her neck
  • Skull fragments were driven into her brain
  • Fractures to bone behind her ear and the base of her skull
  • Damage to soft tissue in jaw and neck
  • Another bullet went through the top of her shoulder and landed above her left shoulder blade (Malala Yousafzai Status Updates  2012)1

Her Prognosis

In a press conference held on October 26, Dr. Dave Rosser stated that he does not believe she will have any long-term brain damage as her long-term and short-term memory is in tact. Dr. Rosser also stated that her prognosis is excellent and plans for reconstructive surgery may be planned once her strength has returned.

In most of the daily status updates, the QEHB reported that Malala remained “stable and comfortable.” The latest entry of the QEHB updates (November 16) noted that they would add further updates if there are significant changes to her condition (Malala Yousafzai Status Updates  2012).1 The significance of her stable condition should not be underestimated. Malala’s survival and recovery is nothing short of a miracle.

Petitions-A-Plenty

In the wake of this tragedy, there has been a resounding cry for Malala to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Tens of thousands of people have signed online petitions (Malala Yousafzai: Thousands Sign Nobel Peace Prize Petition  2012).2  A simple search on www.change.org uncovers multiple of these petitions. One campaigner in the UK, Shahida Choudhary, said that she set up a petition for Malala, ‘because a Nobel Peace Prize for [her would] send a clear message that the world is watching’ (Malala Yousafzai: Thousands Sign Nobel Peace Prize Petition  2012).2 There is no doubt that the world is watching.  The multiplicity of news conferences held in the UK is proof of the media’s interest in Malala’s story. Yet, it is not just the media that has taken an interest in her story.

Former UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has played (and continues to play) an instrumental role in galvanizing the international support for Malala. Under his leadership as the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, his office announced their support for “Malala Day.” November 10 was dedicated to “Malala and the 32 million girls like Malala not at school” (Brown 2012).3

Petitions for a Nobel Peace Prize are not the only petitions that have been signed recently. On “Malala Day,” Brown presented President Asif Ali Zardari with the petitions gathered from the international community and those in Pakistan. In total, there were 2.2 signatures collected, half of which came from Pakistan itself. The “I am Malala” petition called for every child to have access to education (Plan Presented ‘I am Malala’ Petition  2012). 4

As a result of their meeting, Brown and President Zardari set a goal for one million Pakistani out-of-school children to petition for education by this coming January. They also planned for 3 million children to receive cash transfer for school this year. On April 13, 2012, they will have a summit to evaluate the progress made and it will be:

“… Preceded by five months of intensive in-country work with the Pakistan government, civil authorities and foundations, as well as international organizations, to ensure that a detailed, budgeted plan delivers quality education for every girl and boy with teachers, books and classrooms by 2015” (Brown 2012).3

Brown stated that he was pleased with the measures that were announced from his meeting with President Zardari. He remains optimistic of the president’s promises. From the outset, there seems to be hope on the horizon for educational equality in Pakistan, even in the midst of the darkness of terrorism.

Pakistani President’s Visit and Pledge

Any measure, in it of itself—albeit well intentioned, does not ensure significant changes will be made. However, even in a short time, President Zardari has demonstrated how seriously he is taking the attack on Malala. He and his daughter, Asifa Bhutto, flew to England to visit her on December 8. They met with her doctors and were briefed about her medical progress and future treatments. Not only did he thank QEHB for their excellent care, but he also praised Malala for being a ‘remarkable girl and a credit to Pakistan’ (President of Pakistan visits QEHB  2012).5

Malala meeting with President Zardari and his daughter, Asifa Bhutto, on December 8, 2012.

President’s visit may not have been merely political, but personal as well. His visit was close to the anniversary of his wife’s assassination. Nearly 5 years earlier, his wife was murdered amidst her own political campaign. Benazir Bhutto was the first woman elected prime minister in a Muslim nation, of which she was elected twice and dismissed twice due to allegations of corruption. She went into a self-imposed exile after her second dismissal. Upon her return to Pakistan and politics, she was assassinated in 2007 (Habib and Khan 2012).6  In light of this tragic anniversary, Zardari’s visit with Malala seems to have affected him on a personal level.

During a “Stand Up for Malala” advocacy event at the UN’s cultural arm headquarters in Paris, he admitted that he was ‘deeply moved’ by his meeting with Malala (Pakistan’s Asif Ali Zardari Backs Girls’ Education at Event for Malala Yousufzai  2012).7 Just two days after his meeting with her, President Zardari pledged $10 million for girls’ education to UNESCO. As he announced that this fund would be named in Malala’s honor, he wore a pin on his label with a picture of her on it. He stated,

‘I have no doubt that our resolve to provide education to all, in particular to the millions of schoolgirls, is the best strategy to defeat the forces of violence’ (Pakistan’s Asif Ali Zardari Backs Girls’ Education at Event for Malala Yousufzai  2012).7

Her Father’s Appointment to Global Education Adviser

One part of this strategy will include utilizing one of Pakistan’s most valuable assets, Ziauddin Yousafzai. Gordon Brown appointed Malala’s father to be his adviser. As such, he will assist the UN by working to get every child to school by the end of 2015. Because of his role as a former teacher and headmaster, he will be a vital part of helping to remove the barriers that keep girls out of school. His expertise will aid him as he prepares country-by-country reports of the gaps in educational opportunity (Brown 2012).8  This opportunity will not only provide asylum for the Yousafzai family while Malala recovers, but it will also provide them the influence they need to create change on a systemic and international level. No doubt, there will be more news in the coming months and years about the work that Yousafzai and Brown will do.

Another Nomination

On December 18, Time Magazine announced Malala was first runner-up for “Person of the Year” (Baker 2012).9 She came in second to President Barack Obama. The three page article about her outlines much of what we have discussed in the past three blogs. You can read it here. One excerpt from the article certainly rings true for this author:

“She has become perhaps the world’s most admired children’s-rights advocate, all the more powerful for being a child herself” (Baker 2012).9

Malala’s Voice

Malala is pictured here with book in hand on November 7, 2012.

While there has been much discussion about Malala during this past couple of months, the conversations are not without her. Time’s Magazine is correct in saying that Malala has increased in power. Although she is fatigued from her recovery, she is not weak. Her message is unwavering: education for all is worth fighting for.

On November 27, Malala placed a call to a 17-year-old Pakistani young woman offering these words of encouragement:

‘I understand that what happened was tragic, but you need to stay strong .You cannot give up’ (Baker 2012).9

The tragedy she was referring to was the assassination attempt made on Ayesha Mir’s father, Hamid Mir. If anyone could have empathized with the cost of associated with fighting for educational equality, it would be Malala. Ayesha said,

‘The way she spoke was so inspirational. She made me realize that my father was fighting our enemies and that it was something I should be proud of, not afraid’ (Baker 2012).9

That late night phone call gave Ayesha the courage to return to school the very next day. Undoubtedly, Ayesha borrowed strength from Malala’s strength.

In addition to speaking to young women like her, Malala has also been speaking to the Pakistani government on behalf of her fellow students. She telephoned officials in Pakistan to ask them to change the name of a college renamed in her honor back to its original name. She had feared that it would put other students’ lives at risk and she knew that those students felt similarly. The renaming of the college resulted in protests—protests so severe that officials obliged to close the school a week early for winter holidays (Buncombe 2012).10

After demands from the girls at the college and the urgings of Malala, the regional government announced that the college would shut indefinitely after continued protests (Malala Yousafzai College Shuts after Protests over Name  2012).11 Malala’s influence, even from her hospital bed, is undeniable.

Until Next Time…

Within the past couple of months, there have been promising changes for girls’ education in Pakistan. Only time will tell, but momentum is definitely in favor of Malala and the millions of other girls just like her. We will talk about the ways that you can help Malala and get involved in your own communities next week. It is my hope and prayer that we will be inspired to lend a hand in whatever way we can. Together, we can change the world.

Appendix: Timeline of Events Following Malala Being Shot

This blog does not have a shortage of words about the progress that has been made since Malala was shot. In an attempt to clarify the series of events, this author has provided this abridged timeline:

  1. Malala Yousafzai Status Updates. 2012.  2012 [cited December 10, 2012]. Available from http://www.uhb.nhs.uk/news/malala-yousafzai-status-updates.htm. [] []
  2. Malala Yousafzai: Thousands Sign Nobel Peace Prize Petition. 2012.  2012 [cited December 13 2012]. Available from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-20259845). [] []
  3. Brown, Gordon. 2012. Malala Day. The Office of the UN Special Envoy for Global Education 2012 [cited November 28 2012]. Available from http://educationenvoy.org/press/malala-day. [] []
  4. Plan Presented ‘I am Malala’ Petition. 2012.  2012 [cited December 10 2012]. Available from http://www.plan-uk.org/news/news-and-features/plan-presented-i-am-malala-petition/. []
  5. President of Pakistan visits QEHB. 2012.  2012 [cited December 16 2012]. Available from http://www.uhb.nhs.uk/news/president-of-pakistan-visits-qehb.htm. []
  6. Habib, Nasir, and Reza Sayah. 2012. Official: Pakistani Teen Blogger’s Shooting A ‘Wake-Up Call’ to ‘Clear…Danger’, October 14, 2012 [cited December 9 2012]. Available from http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/11/world/asia/pakistan-teen-activist-attack/index.html. []
  7. Pakistan’s Asif Ali Zardari Backs Girls’ Education at Event for Malala Yousufzai. 2012.  2012 [cited December 26 2012]. Available from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/10/pakistan-zardari-unesco-education-pledge. [] []
  8. Brown, Gordon. 2012. Gordon Brown Appoints Ziauddin Yousafzai as his Special Adviser on Global Education  2012 [cited December 27 2012]. Available from http://educationenvoy.org/press/gordon-brown-appoints-ziauddin-yousafzai-as-his-special-adviser-on-global-education. []
  9. Baker, Aryn. 2012. Runner-Up: Malala Yousafzai, the Fighter  2012 [cited December 26 2012]. Available from http://poy.time.com/2012/12/19/runner-up-malala-yousafzai-the-fighter/#ixzz2GHa7I1Qu. [] [] [] []
  10. Buncombe, Andrew. 2012. Malala Yousafzai Girl Shot by Taliban Acts to Save Pupils from Attacks  2012 [cited December 27 2012]. Available from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/malala-yousafzai-girl-shot-by-taliban-acts-to-save-pupils-from-attacks-8428912.html. []
  11. Malala Yousafzai College Shuts after Protests over Name. 2012.  2012 [cited December 27 2012]. Available from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20767757. []