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A Day To Recognize Girls And Pray For Malala

A Day To Recognize Girls And Pray For Malala

Today is the first International Day of the Girl. That’s a good thing, as millions of girls and women live in oppression and are abused daily in countries around the world. Here’s from a UN news report:

The United Nations today marked the first International Day of the Girl Childby calling for an end to child marriage, and stressing education as one of the best strategies for protecting girls against this harmful practice.

“Education for girls is one of the best strategies for protecting girls against child marriage,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day. “When they are able to stay in school and avoid being married early, girls can build a foundation for a better life for themselves and their families.”

“Let us do our part to let girls be girls, not brides,” he stated, urging governments, community and religious leaders, civil society, the private sector, and families – especially men and boys – to promote the rights of girls.

The International Day of the Girl Child was designated as 11 October by a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2011, to recognize girls’ rights and highlight the unique challenges girls face worldwide. The theme of this year’s observance is ‘Ending Child Marriage.’

Approximately 70 million young women today were married before age 18, according to the UN, which notes that child marriage denies a girl her childhood, disrupts her education, limits her opportunities, increases her risk of being a victim of violence and abuse, and jeopardizes her health.

As best I can tell, a 14-year-old girl in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, was kinda out in front of the UN by using her blog posts to speak out for girls and for the importance of education. Earlier in the week, a member (or perhaps members) of the Pakistani Taliban climbed aboard a van where Malala was a passenger, called her out by name, and then pumped a couple of rounds into her head. She remains in critical condition.

Hard to come up with a more horrific example of the plight facing many girls than what happened to Malala. Here’s from WaPo:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A 14-year-old Pakistani student who won international acclaim for speaking out for girls barred from school by the Taliban was critically wounded Tuesday by a gunman who boarded her school bus, asked for her by name, aimed his pistol at her head and fired, officials said.

The Pakistani Taliban asserted responsibility for the attack on ninth-grader Malala Yousafzai, who gained notice in early 2009 when she wrote a diary about Taliban atrocities under a pen name for the BBC’s Urdu service. Yousafzai lives in Mingora, a city in the scenic northwestern Swat Valley, where Taliban insurgents imposed harsh Islamic law for two years before being routed by a major military operation in May 2009.

Today, the army promotes Swat as a tourist destination — it sponsored a festival there in July, trying to restore its reputation as the Switzerland of Pakistan. Residents say militants rarely strike, but Tuesday’s daylight attack demonstrated the Taliban’s continued ability to infiltrate the area, which adjoins Pakistan’s insurgency-plagued tribal belt.

Two months ago, Taliban gunmen shot and seriously injured the president of Swat’s hotel association in Mingora and vowed further attacks on those it considers pro-government.

Many Pakistanis view Yousafzai, who also promoted literacy and peace, as a symbol of hope in a country long beset by violence and despair. In 2011, the Pakistani government awarded her a national peace prize and 1 million rupees ($10,500).

She also was a finalist last year for the International Children’s Peace Prize, awarded by a Dutch organization that lauded her bravery in standing up for girls’ education rights amid rising fundamentalism when few others in Pakistan would do so.

Yousafzai was flown by helicopter to a military hospital in Peshawar, where doctors on Wednesday said they removed a bullet lodged near her spine. The girl’s condition was improving, but officials said she had not yet regained consciousness. President Asif Ali Zardari directed that Yousafzai be sent abroad for further medical care if needed; the Interior Ministry arranged documents for her to enter Britain or the United Arab Emirates.

While school children throughout the nation held prayer vigils for Yousafza, and many Pakistanis and politicans expressed revulsion over the shooting, major religious parties and mosque leaders were largely silent. Clerics frequently do not rebuke suicide bombings or sectarian attacks for fear of alienating their increasingly conservative congregants or provoking the Taliban.

On Wednesday morning, Pakistan’s top military official, Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani,, became was the first national leader to visit the victim. He called the shooting “inhuman” and a “heinous act of terrorism,” the military’s information office said.

Kayani, arguably Pakistan’s most powerful man, quoted the words of the Prophet Muhammad: “The one who is not kind to children, is not amongst us,” the statement said.

My guess is that the international outrage and media coverage given to the shooting of Malala and two of her classmates will highlight the plight of girls and women more effectively than most anything the UN can do. And maybe in the long run that will result in something positive.

But in the meantime, on a day set aside to recognize girls, let’s pray for Malala.

And for all the other Malalas in the USA and elsewhere.

For more, consider:

NYT story, “Malala Has Won.”

Malala airlifted to top military hospital in Rawalpindi.”


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