It’s impossible to think about today being UN International Day of the Girl Child without thinking about a 14 year-old girl lying in a Pakistani hospital having been shot in the head by a member of the Taliban.
Malala Yousafzai is an unbelievably brave and powerful girl child.
Since the age of 11 she has been campaigning in her home in the Swat Valley for girls’ rights to education, a dangerous pastime for a girl in a Taliban stronghold.
On Tuesday, Malala – and the world – realized just how dangerous when she was shot by a member of the Taliban as she sat on her school bus. The bullet passed through her head and lodged in her shoulder. Two of her friends were also wounded.
Malala has still not regained consciousness and is still on a ventilator. According to the New York Times the outcry in Pakistan has been vociferous, and a $100,000 reward has been put up for information leading to the arrest of her attacker.
The Taliban has proudly claimed responsibility for the attack on Malala, “a Western-minded girl,” and say they will have a second go at murdering her if given the chance.
“She always speaks against us. We will target anyone who speaks against the Taliban,” a spokesman for the militant group said.
Malala Yousafzai is a potent symbol for girl’s rights and an icon of defiance against a Taliban that would subjugate women into the dark ages – no education, no walking in public without a male escort, forced into marriage as children.
Indeed the theme of this inaugural International Day of The Girl Child is forced child-marriage – “a slavery-like reality in ever single region of the world” according to the United Nations.
The UN estimates that every year 10 million girls around the world are forced into arranged marriages. Some of them are as young as eight and are forced to marry men four times their age.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said the day highlighted the need to empower girls and secure their human rights.
“Girls face discrimination, violence and abuse every day across the world,” he said.
“This alarming reality underpins the International Day of the Girl Child.”
There could not be a more forceful and potent example than that of Malala Yousafzai, freedom fighter.
Her extraordinary power has moved the world.
What on earth is the Taliban so scared of?
*Lucy (Editor of The Hoopla) is a journalist and editor with almost thirty years experience in newspapers and magazines in Sydney, London, and New York. She has been published in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Daily and Sunday Telegraphs, Vogue Living, Australian Art Review, and Gourmet Traveller. Most recently the Books Editor of the Sunday Telegraph, she has also contributed to the non-fiction books, Australia Through Time, and What Women Want.