The power of one

Malala Yousafzai’s story should empower each one of us.

Sam Jasenosky

Women’s fashion magazine Glamour held its annual Women of the Year award show Monday. During her acceptance speech, Lady Gaga said she’d forfeit her December cover of the magazine to Malala Yousafzai if she could.

Malala was named honoree of the Women of the Year fund, a campaign produced by Glamour that will help support The Malala Fund.

The 16-year-old made international headlines last year when a member of the Taliban shot her in the head. She miraculously survived. The Taliban could not stop her from blogging about her life under their regime in Pakistan.

Malala began blogging for BBC’s Urdu site in 2009 using a fake name. She wrote blogs thinking that the Taliban “had never come for a girl,” not knowing what the group would later do to her.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Malala “a role model for the world.” She would have been the youngest Nobel Peace Prize recipient last month, but the award went to an international chemical weapons watchdog group instead. Regardless, Malala embodies courage the world needs to know about.

Malala is proof words are powerful. After all, it was her blog the Taliban wanted to silence.

Malala also demonstrates that real change can start with one person.

We’re presented with monumental problems every day. Yet, it’s hard to believe there is anything we can do as individuals. Malala’s story is evidence that it only takes one person to start change.

The first step toward progress is recognizing the problem and creating an open dialogue. That’s what Malala did with her blog.

But Malala didn’t just talk about the problem; she risked her life to talk about the problem. Malala was dedicated to educating herself and young girls everywhere. The Taliban couldn’t stop her.

“Even if they come to kill me,” Malala said in an interview with a Pakistani television network, “I will tell them that what they are trying to do is wrong — that education is our basic right.”

The situation for young girls’ education in Pakistan under the Taliban is grim. The year Malala began blogging, only about 40 percent of girls age 15 and older in Pakistan were literate, though this number is rising. The literacy rate in northern Pakistan among girls is only 6 percent, according to UNESCO.

The dismal education situation in Pakistan is due to many factors, such as a lack of resources and a poor economy.

“No one among the elite wants to oversee progressive change in Pakistan,” Pakistani rights campaigner Allah Dita Anjum said in an interview with Financial Times. “Everyone just wants to preserve the status quo.”

Malala’s bravery shook that status quo.

Her single action was felt worldwide, and it’s beginning to impact young girls. The Malala Fund’s first grant will fund 40 girls’ education in the Swat Valley, an area in Pakistan with a huge Taliban influence.

Without Malala, those 40 girls wouldn’t receive an education.

I encourage us all to think about those 40 girls the next time we find ourselves against an issue that feels impossible.

If Malala’s single action started real change, then each of us can create change, too.