Welcome to Deliaspeaks!

It has been a while since I have written last and it feels like a lot has changed within me since that time. Experience is one of the best teachers out there and also one of the most intense teachers I have ever had.

I have thought a lot about deliaspeaks.com—what I wanted it to become and what it needed to become.

Originally, I wanted this blog to be a place of academia and scholarly research, but I realized that the “average joe” (and most of my friends) don’t really care to read such a post. It’s not because they are not smart or they don’t care about the issues I write about it. It’s just that not a lot of people get as excited about a research paper like I do. Haha! #nerdproblems

Old habits will always die hard though, so I cannot claim that there will not be a little bit of citation or fact checking on my behalf for my posts moving forward. You should expect nothing less, in fact. At the same time, I want this blog to also be something that anyone who is passionate about these issues or who is learning about them for the first time to be drawn to read.

Last, but not least, I want people to really hear my voice on these issues. This is called “Delia Speaks” after all. While Experience has been an intense teacher, it has also taught me that every voice counts. My voice counts.

One of my fellow freedom fighters and I often wonder out loud to each other about why we are in the positions we are in—having had access to higher education, good nutrition, and other opportunities that come with living in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. We have wrestled with the guilt and the despair over such a broken world and removed the crushing weight of responsibility off of each other’s shoulders more than once. We have had to lay down (and continually laydown) our concerns and heartache at the feet of God.

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Here’s an example of the type of collaborative work we do. It’s one of the conversations my fellow freedom fighters and I have had.

It is often said, “God does not call the qualified. God qualifies the called.” We are living proof of that. My friends and I are a motley group of young people making a difference in the world. We are a “goodie mob” that has moved past wondering why and onto gratitude that gives.

We recognize that we, in it of ourselves, are not good. Only God is truly good. But we now know that we have been put into incredible positions of power, like that of Queen Esther, “for such a time as this.” We are voices that shine light into the darkness.

Dr. King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” That is what we are about. Our mission is to love. It is the kind of love that has hands and feet and goes into the dark places of the world and brings light.

I hope that you will come along with us in this journey and unite with us in purpose and passion. My hope is that we can learn from each other and leave renewed and re-inspired to love the world with the best of what we’ve got!

Much love,

-D-

 

 

The Ending of a Chapter for Malala

Malala was released from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham on January 4, 2013.

Today’s headlines heralded the good news of Malala’s release from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB). She will continue her rehabilitation at her family’s temporary English home before undergoing cranial reconstruction surgery later on this month or early next month (Malala Yousafzai Leaves Queen Elizabeth Hospital  2013). In the three months that Malala was at QEHB, she became like Pakistan’s sweetheart. Ziauddin said this of his daughter, ‘She is not only my daughter… She is the daughter of Pakistan and I am only the caretaker’ (Khan 2012).

This blog is just one example of how the Pakistani people are not the only ones who adore her. “Her voice is the voice of people of Pakistan and all downtrodden and deprived children of the world” (Malala Yousafzai Status Updates  2012). The world seems to be taking the attack on Malala very personally.

Funds for Malala

As of November 16, 2012, a total of £9,982.13 [roughly, $16,000]* has now been donated to the QEHB Charity. This fund was set up soon after Malala arrived in Birmingham due to the overwhelming response of people interested in donating to show their support. Although the QEHB Charity is associated with the hospital, it is an independent entity. It provides “funding for facilities and equipment not normally available on the NHS, such as patient and family welfare, educational projects and research” (Malala Yousafzai Status Updates  2012). Once she is well enough, Malala will decide what to do with the money raised in her name.

Other groups have also raised funds for Malala. One of these groups is a team of graduate students from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. They have raised almost $50,000! (Malala Yousafzai Family Fund  2013)

*Based upon a 1.607 exchange rate.

How to Donate

There is still an opportunity to donate to Malala. For those interested in doing so, this author would recommend donating to either of the following charities. If you are in the UK, the QEHB Charity is still accepting donations. In the US, you can donate to Vital Voices online or Text BRAVE to 27722 to give $10.

Cards, Letter, Or Gifts

You may also be interested in writing to Malala. She has already received thousands of letters from those around the world– including one from this author. Although she has received many notes, there will never be such a thing as an excess of kind and encouraging words.

A letter for Malala sent on December 22, 2012.

For anyone interested in sending a note to Malala, you can mail it here:

“For Malala”
c/o Pakistan Consulate Birmingham
2-26 Constitution Hill
Hockley
Birmingham, B19 3LY

 

 

Last, But Not Least, Prayer

Ziauddin recognizes that people of different faiths are praying for his daughter. He considers it a blessing to have a daughter who has been prayed for not only by other Muslims, but also Christians, Hindus and Sikhs. He is thankful for the prayers and the support (Khan 2012).

In this video (published on November 12, 2012),  Ziauddin expressed his gratitude for all of the support they have received.

If you feel inclined, I urge you to join us in praying. Here are some suggestions for what you can pray for:

  • Pray to thank God for her Malala’s survival and excellent strides made in her recovery.
  • Pray for continued support and protection for the Yousafzai family while they stay in England, but especially for when they return to Pakistan.
  • Pray for Ziauddin’s work as the special adviser to the UN Special Envoy for Global Education.
  • Pray for wisdom and discernment in how to utilize the funds raised.
  • Pray for justice and equality for Malala and girls just like her around the world.

Concluding Thoughts

Malala walks hand-in-hand with a nurse at QEHB.

It seemed apropos for my inaugural series of blog posts to be about a revolutionary girl who got her start as a blogger. Through this experience, I feel as though she has become like a dear friend and I look to her as though she were my little sister. As such, I am one of her biggest cheerleaders and I will undoubtedly follow her story as it continues to unfold.

 

Malala embraces another nurse at QEHB.

My kindred feelings towards her are connected to my own educational aspirations and accomplishments. As a woman who has earned a Master’s degree, I am acutely aware of what a privilege that that was and the responsibility that comes with it. I am standing on one side of the educational spectrum– a place where she will stand one day.

In the recent political landscape in the US, there has been a lot of talk about the “99%.” The reality is that in comparison to the rest of the world many of us are not the “99%.” What makes us wealthy is not only the balance in our bank accounts, but also our access to clean water, health care, education, democratic due process, so on and so forth.

The weight of our own problems, let alone the world’s problems, can seem overwhelming. I know that when I get overwhelmed it is easy to become immobilized. I begin to ask myself, “But, what can I do?” When I am feeling discouraged, I am reminded by the words of Mother Teresa, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

Needless to say, Malala inspires me. Is there any limit to how far she can go? Is there any limit to where any of us could go?

What the Taliban does not understand is that the forces of what is good, right, and just are unstoppable. Malala said it best, “They cannot stop me. I will get my education if it is in home, school, or any place. This is our request to the all world. To save our schools. To save our world. To save our Pakistan. To save our Swat” (Ellick 2009).

I would like to encourage you to look deep into your heart and to start figuring out ways that you can help. You may have already decided to donate to Malala or to write her a letter. You may want to discover ways that you can give back in the community where you live, work, and play as well.

There may be opportunities to volunteer at a school or after school program near you. There may also be ways get involved with helping organizations like the Rotary club, Girl Scouts, or Boy Scouts. If your church, synagogue, or mosque has an outreach program for tutoring, you might like to get involved with that. Or maybe you would like to volunteer to teach dance or to give piano lessons? Do you have any books, laptops, desktops, or anything along those lines that you no longer use that you would like to donate? You can donate them to your local school, charity, or library.

There is no limit on the ways that you can get involved. Whatever it is that you decide to do, there is no “small” gift, because it all adds up! Do not wait, do it now. If you want help brainstorming ideas on how to give back, email me at deliaspeaks@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

May God bless our efforts– and multiply them!

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)

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). 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).  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). 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).

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). 

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).

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).

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).  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). 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).

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).  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). 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).

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).

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).

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).

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). 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:

Malala’s Rise to Notoriety

In December 2011, Malala Yousafzai received the National Youth Peace Prize from Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Understanding Why

One of my first initial questions about Malala was, “What did a 15-year-old do to warrant being shot at?” It was not just a shot meant to maim her. It was done with the intent to kill her—to stop her from continuing to do whatever it was that she was doing.

To some people, she would be considered “just a child” and a girl, no less. To a militant terrorist organization that places little value on the life of anyone, let alone girls, she was actually a threat to them. What an intriguing thought! As such, I wanted to know why the Taliban feared her.

Malala’s Rise to Notoriety

Even before Malala was born, Ziauddin understood the importance of education for girls. He owned and operated a private school for girls, Khushal School and College (Ellick 2009).   Located in Swat Valley’s capital city (Mingora), it is in the northwestern region of Pakistan and at the center of the Taliban’s militant reign.

Malala would go on to study at her father’s school and to follow in his activist footsteps. When BBC Urdu reporters contacted him about possible female student bloggers, Ziauddin suggested that his then-11-year-old daughter could do it. She agreed to write for them and her writings were published for 10 weeks, starting in late 2008 (Williams 2012).   Her blog discussed her desire to go to school and the dangers of such a desire.

Because of these dangers, Malala assumed a pen name. She wrote about her fondness over her pseudonym in one of her posts:

“My mother liked my pen name ‘Gul Makai’ and said to my father, ‘Why not change her name to Gul Makai?’ I also like the name because my real name means ‘grief stricken’” (Yousafzai 2009). 

Yet, even her concealed identity could not circumvent the grief that Malala and her family would endure. The Yousafzai family left Swat Valley before the launch of the military operation in May 2009 (Williams 2012).   Even though the Yousafzai family did return home later on that year, Malala did not return to writing for BBC.

Their struggle during that time is well chronicled in The New York Times’ documentary, “Class Dismissed.” It is a 30 minute snapshot of their life before, during, and after becoming refugees. It provides a good backdrop for the rest of this blog and future posts about Malala.

Information about Malala’s life between 2009 and 2011 is difficult to find, but what is clear is that 2011 was an important year for her. For one thing, it was the year that Malala’s name became associated with her blog posts.  Her father decided to disclose her association with BBC when he nominated her for the International Children’s Peace Prize (Williams 2012).   Out of the 98 children nominated from 42 different countries, Malala was one of five finalists (International Children’s Peace Prize Newsletter  2011, 3).   Although she did not receive that prize, she was awarded the National Youth Peace Prize by the Pakistani government two months later (Williams 2012). 

After being nominated for one peace prize and being awarded another, Malala was in the limelight like never before. She began appearing on Pakistani Talk Shows and being interviewed by the press about her advocacy for girls’ education in Pakistan. Many of these videos can be found at www.youtube.com, but most of them are not translated into English. One 2011 interview with CNN is in English and can be found here.

A little less than a year after being awarded by the Pakistani government, the Taliban shot Malala in the head and neck while she was in her school bus. Not only did she survive, but what would unfold shortly thereafter would be cause for much hope. No one could have ever predicted the outcome of that terrible day. What some had intended for evil has been transformed into an indomitable force for good.

Until Next Time…

Next week, we will take a look at what I have deemed as “The Malala Movement.” What has unfolded in the last couple of months is an international cry for justice for Malala and equality for girls in Pakistan. We will see the impact this has had on Malala, her family, and her country. For those of you wondering about whether we are ever going to talk about what you can do to join in “The Malala Movement,” do no fret! Two weeks from now, we will discuss ways to get involved and what is our “call to action.”

Introducing Malala

Photo from abcnews.com

Welcome, Dearest Reader!

You are truly in for a treat. I do not say this because I boast of my own writing or storytelling abilities. Rather, I am excited for us to take a journey together around the world to meet some of the people who are working to improve the lives of women and girls. A better world for them is a better world for us all.

This first series of blog posts will focus on a very special young lady named, Malala Yousafzai. It is my hope that you fall in love with her and her story as much as I did. May we also be inspired to take action on her behalf– and all of the others girls just like her.

Why Malala?

When the news broke that the Taliban had shot a young girl because of her advocacy for girls’ education in Pakistan, I wanted to know more about her. I had to know more. My initial questions included:

Who is she? What is her story? How can a 15-year-old be such a threat to the Taliban that it warranted shooting her? How did she become such a threat? What does her family think of her advocacy and desire for education? What is the government doing about it? What about the international community at large, including the United Nations (UN) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)?

These are the questions that guided my research into her life—and resulted in hours of reading academic journals, newspaper articles, various reports, and watching videos. I did my best to immerse myself in her world in order to better understand her and to make sure that I gave her story the dignity that it deserves.

What I have compiled here is the “tip of the iceberg” of the reality of girls’ education in Pakistan. This post will focus on introducing the macro (“big picture”) issue of educational adversity for Pakistani girls. This backdrop will be important for better understanding  the specifics of Malala’s story, which we will look at more closely next week.

The Problem

“From January 15 [2009], girls will not be allowed to attend schools” (Khan 2009).   This was a radio address transmitted by the Taliban’s second in command in Swat Valley, Mullah Shah Doran. In the midst of an already violent and adversarial climate, this radio address was disheartening news, especially for the Yousafzai family. Malala’s father, Ziauddin, had dedicated over a decade to educating girls. He summarized the issue this way, “In the area where I live, there are some people who want to stop educating girls with guns” (Ellick 2009). 

This announcement came on the heels of an already diminishing female enrollment. In 2006 and 2007, more than 30 percent of girls had dropped out as a result of the radio broadcasts of militant Taliban leaders; half of the remaining girls dropped out or could not go to school because of the subsequent attacks on their schools and colleges (Khan 2009). 

The most recent reports from Unicef and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have shown that the problem of girls’ education in Pakistan persists. Pakistan has the second largest population of children out of school—approximately 5.1 million (Youth and Skills: Putting Education to Work  2012, 9).   On average, the poorest Pakistani girls are educated three years less than their male classmates and one year less in urban areas (Children in an Urban World  2012, 7). 

Why is Education for Girls so Important?

In 1989, the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) established education as a basic human right. Article 28 recognized the right of every child to primary education and accessibility to secondary and higher education (Convention on the Rights of the Child  1989, 13).   Fundamentally, girls’ education is a human rights issue.

Research since 1989 has indicated it is not only a matter of human rights, but economic welfare as well. This type of investment in girls is considered to be profitable by those in the global community– ranging from leaders at the World Economic Forum and World Bank as well as prominent businesspeople (Murphy, Belmonte, and Nelson 2009, 4).   The return on investment is proving to be significant and to have far reaching effects. Today’s girls will shape the competitiveness of tomorrow’s labor force (Levine et al. 2008, 1). 

UNESCO statistics show that Pakistani women with a high level of literacy earned 95% more than women with no literacy skills; the differential for men was only 33% (Youth and Skills: Putting Education to Work  2012, 17).   Pakistan’s future economic growth hinges on how well it can utilize the female work force during its productive age (Levine et al. 2008, 1).   When girls are denied access to education and skill building, girls are not the only ones who are disadvantaged.

What is good for Pakistani girls is good for everyone in Pakistan.

Until Next Time…

This was merely a snapshot of the “who” and the “what” questions concerning Malala’s story. I hope this post whet your appetite to learn more! Next week’s post will focus on “how” and “why” she became a notorious target for the Taliban. Our understanding of all of these questions will serve to inform us on how we can best aid Malala in her fight for educational equality in Pakistan.