Change possible if you are prepared to fight for it

In Taliban-controlled areas of the world, to be a girl means to be afraid.

From birth, you are disadvantaged by your gender.

You are the inferior sex - a second-class citizen - and must follow the rules set by the men of the Taliban on how to live your life.

To speak out against them is to become a target for their violence; to disobey their rules is to tread on the edge of punishment.

Arranged marriage, rape, honour killings and punishments, being controlled by fathers, brothers, husbands and sons, restricted to certain parts of a town and certain forms of dress - these are just some of the issues that women in Pakistan have to cope with every day.

The presence of the Taliban has made some parts of this Asian country a place of misery to be female.

Women are frequently whipped in public for what the Taliban deems to be ''immoral'' behaviour.

They suffer the oppression of the vast majority of their society through the inability to access education and justice in the courtroom, and are so constricted in their dress and behaviour that to even look at a male can lead to severe punishment.

Although the attitudes and beliefs that fuel this discrimination are well-imbedded and upheld within many parts of Pakistani society, there are a number of vocal protesters pushing against the tide and making their desperate situation of gender inequality in Pakistan known to the world.

Malala Yousafzai is one of these activists.

She was a young, innocent, 14-year-old schoolgirl returning home on a school bus when she was shot at close range by a Taliban gunman.

By some miracle she survived the bullet wounds in her head, neck and shoulder and was able to be operated on.

She has now largely recovered after being treated in a British hospital and currently attends school in Birmingham.

But why was she attacked?Since she was 11, Malala has spoken out against the oppression of girls in Taliban Pakistan and more specifically, girls' rights to an education and a future of their choice.

To you and I, this may seem a right, one that is fundamental to a democratic society.

However, in Malala's home of Swat Valley, to be a girl and have a full education - one equal to boys - is a hard-fought-for privilege.

Why is a 14-year-old girl the one who brings these issues to our awareness?

Why is the prime minister of Pakistan only now being heard proclaiming around the world his support for her fight to achieve the goal of equality?

Until the attack on Malala Yousafzai, I didn't even know Pakistan had a prime minister, let alone one that stood for girls' education and rights.

While reading the numerous blogs and articles about this issue, I found many people commenting on the fact that so many of Pakistan's leading ministers were seemingly jumping on the bandwagon when it comes to fighting for equality in Pakistan.

Some even went so far as to speculate this is because the focus (and therefore the danger) is no longer on them, but on a schoolgirl lying in a hospital somewhere in Britain.

Others pointed out that by making Malala a symbol of the efforts to end oppression in Pakistan, she may never be able to return home.

Even the attempts by the Pakistani Government to name a school after her were met with frantic opposition.

The pupils themselves protested because they knew their school would immediately become a target.

Malala is now so famous for her beliefs and what she suffered at the hands of the Taliban that the world knows her name.

What will the world do now?How will the Taliban be banished from Pakistan, and the effects of their oppression be washed away?The road to equality is sure to be long, but the decision of how to start is the hardest step of them all.

If we had been born in a different country we could be the sisters or friends of these girls.

Maybe we would be in the same position: trying to reach our dreams in a place where they seem impossible to live out.

No matter whether we are a Pakistani citizen or not, the fact that we need to act is impossible to ignore.

Deciding what we should do is the hardest thing to do, but as everybody has been able to see from Malala's campaign, change is possible, and the easiest way to achieve it is to fight for it yourself.

 


• By Beth Garey,  (Year 11, Otago Girls' High School)

 

 

From birth, you are disadvantaged by your gender.

You are the inferior sex - a second-class citizen - and must follow the rules set by the men of the Taliban on how to live your life.

To speak out against them is to become a target for their violence; to disobey their rules is to tread on the edge of punishment.

Arranged marriage, rape, honour killings and punishments, being controlled by fathers, brothers, husbands and sons, restricted to certain parts of a town and certain forms of dress - these are just some of the issues that women in Pakistan have to cope with every day.

The presence of the Taliban has made some parts of this Asian country a place of misery to be female.

Women are frequently whipped in public for what the Taliban deems to be ''immoral'' behaviour.

They suffer the oppression of the vast majority of their society through the inability to access education and justice in the courtroom, and are so constricted in their dress and behaviour that to even look at a male can lead to severe punishment.

Although the attitudes and beliefs that fuel this discrimination are well-imbedded and upheld within many parts of Pakistani society, there are a number of vocal protesters pushing against the tide and making their desperate situation of gender inequality in Pakistan known to the world.

Malala Yousafzai is one of these activists.

She was a young, innocent, 14-year-old schoolgirl returning home on a school bus when she was shot at close range by a Taliban gunman.

By some miracle she survived the bullet wounds in her head, neck and shoulder and was able to be operated on.

She has now largely recovered after being treated in a British hospital and currently attends school in Birmingham.

But why was she attacked?Since she was 11, Malala has spoken out against the oppression of girls in Taliban Pakistan and more specifically, girls' rights to an education and a future of their choice.

To you and I, this may seem a right, one that is fundamental to a democratic society.

However, in Malala's home of Swat Valley, to be a girl and have a full education - one equal to boys - is a hard-fought-for privilege.

Why is a 14-year-old girl the one who brings these issues to our awareness?

Why is the prime minister of Pakistan only now being heard proclaiming around the world his support for her fight to achieve the goal of equality?

Until the attack on Malala Yousafzai, I didn't even know Pakistan had a prime minister, let alone one that stood for girls' education and rights.

While reading the numerous blogs and articles about this issue, I found many people commenting on the fact that so many of Pakistan's leading ministers were seemingly jumping on the bandwagon when it comes to fighting for equality in Pakistan.

Some even went so far as to speculate this is because the focus (and therefore the danger) is no longer on them, but on a schoolgirl lying in a hospital somewhere in Britain.

Others pointed out that by making Malala a symbol of the efforts to end oppression in Pakistan, she may never be able to return home.

Even the attempts by the Pakistani Government to name a school after her were met with frantic opposition.

The pupils themselves protested because they knew their school would immediately become a target.

Malala is now so famous for her beliefs and what she suffered at the hands of the Taliban that the world knows her name.

What will the world do now?How will the Taliban be banished from Pakistan, and the effects of their oppression be washed away?The road to equality is sure to be long, but the decision of how to start is the hardest step of them all.

If we had been born in a different country we could be the sisters or friends of these girls.

Maybe we would be in the same position: trying to reach our dreams in a place where they seem impossible to live out.

No matter whether we are a Pakistani citizen or not, the fact that we need to act is impossible to ignore.

Deciding what we should do is the hardest thing to do, but as everybody has been able to see from Malala's campaign, change is possible, and the easiest way to achieve it is to fight for it yourself.

 


By BETH GAREY (Year 11, Otago Girls' High School)

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