October 11th was International Day of the Girl – a movement that empowers girls around the world to see themselves as powerful change agents. This year’s theme is “Innovation for girls’ education.” Certainly, this makes sense given that education is one of our most powerful resources – just ask Malala. During her recent interview on The Daily Show, Malala reminded the world that it is education that can solve global problems – not war.
The youngest person in history to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Malala is clear in her message; the only way to make change is through peace, dialogue, and education. When asked about her reaction to the threat to her life by the Taliban, Malala responded saying that she thought quite a bit about what she would say if she came face to face with a Talib. “I would tell him how important education is and that I would even want education for your children as well. That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.”
Although the Taliban has continued to threatened her life, Malala says striking back is not the right approach. “If you hit a Talib, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty. … You must fight others through peace and through dialogue and through education.” Such words of wisdom from a child.
Denied her rights because of her gender and targeted by the abuse of her religion, Malala states that terrorists fear education because they know it offers power to women and girls. A review of statistics show that girls who are educated make different choices – they wait to get married, have fewer children, and contribute more to the economy. In addition, educated girls are committed to their daughters’ education and raise them with similar values.
With the release of her book I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, her name continues to be on the world’s lips and her courage is an example to us all. Like many, I am inspired by Malala. I often wonder, what I am I willing to put my life on the line for? How would I respond to those who attack me – verbally, emotionally, physically? What does it mean to say that I embrace a pacifist ideology and can I really live up to it? Malala well demonstrates that it is possible and I am deeply moved by her bravery and call for justice. As we all consider how to approach our foes, challenge ideologies, and work for change, let us ask ourselves, “What would Malala do?”
Consider donating to The Malala Fund to support the empowerment of girls “to raise their voices, to unlock their potential, and to demand change.”
Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D. is a Feminist theologian, ethicist, and activist. She is Dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at Ursuline College and Co-founder of Feminism and Religion. In addition, Gina has taught at multiple universities including Claremont Graduate University, Loyola Marymount University, John Carroll University and Notre Dame College. Gina has authored multiple articles and the forthcoming book Rape Culture and Spiritual Violence, and is co-editor (with Rosemary Radford Ruether) of the forthcoming anthology, Feminism and Religion in the 21st Century. Her research interests are theologically and ethically driven, involve a feminist and interdisciplinary approach, and are influenced by her activist roots and experience working with survivors of rape and domestic violence. Gina can be followed on Twitter @FemTheologian and her website can be accessed at http://ginamessinadysert.com.