Being a female in a male dominated society isn’t as hard as it was yesterday, but it’s not easy either. There comes a point in every woman’s life, when they realize that they’ve experienced just about everything they’re allowed to experience without being in a position of challenging or refuting the unwritten rules and expectations of society placed upon women. These past experiences or memories (that were “acceptable” for society), are a big part of their identity, but are simply not enough to encompass everything about them. For many women across the world, it’s a sad reality that their personal identity, dreams and passions encompass much more than what society allows for them.
These women, are women like Malala Yousafzai.
Born and raised in Pakistan, Malala started advocating for education rights at the young age of 11 years old. Taking after her father’s footsteps and becoming an advocate, she never assumed that at only 15 years old, she would be shot by the Taliban due to her efforts of increasing awareness and support for education rights in Pakistan.
It was this shooting, her recovery, and determinism to tell her story; which was also the story of many other females being prohibited from learning that won her a Noble Peace Prize in 2014.
When asked about her fire for advocating education rights, Malala simply replied:
“We realize the importance of our voice only when we are silenced.”
When many hear Malala’s story today, the default reaction is that of awe and sympathy for a tragedy that was inflicted on a young girl. Malala’s story however, is more than just a tragedy or horrific incident. It speaks to the lengths and measures young girls and women are forced to go through before their voice is finally acknowledged. It speaks to the countless females in the world that go unheard and unseen because they get cut off from the very thing that can allow them to be heard; they are cut off from having an identity that isn’t bound or framed from what society dictates it to be.
Having lived and grown up in fear of male dominated forces like the Taliban, Malala herself admits to having felt scared initially. There were times that the task at hand seemed so impossible that she would question if perhaps, she was wrong or if she was indeed committing a crime as society held her guilty for. But in these same moments of weakness and fear, she knew that if she stayed silent as the rest of the world was, her true identity as a woman, her aspirations and her dreams, would never make it to the future; even if she did by staying alive.
As a young girl or woman, you may think that you’re not someone capable of looking your oppressor in the eye (as they hold a gun towards you) confirming that you are indeed, the person who has been refuting their rules, but most likely neither did Malala. No one can prepare or anticipate such situations in life but regardless of whether or not you have an actual gun pointed towards you, or simply feel like society will have a gun pointed at you for speaking up, the question to ask yourself is simple:
If we as women, cannot muster up the courage to refute people, laws and rules trying to constrict our growth and prosperity in the world, then how can we expect others to? If we don’t build that courage now, then will we ever?