The Story of Malala Yousafzai

By HARSHAL BHOSALE, Student Life Editor

The UM-Dearborn chapter of the American Association for University Women (AAUW) in commemoration of Women’s History Month, organized a screening of the National Geographic/Fox Searchlight documentary, “He Named Me Malala,” in Kochoff Hall on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. The screening was accompanied with discussions about issues tackled in the movie, leaving all present with a bigger picture of the state of women empowerment in developing countries throughout the world.

N’Kenge Gonzalez, Vice President of the AAUW Student Organization, and Shareia Carter, Director of the Women’s Resource Center, spoke about opportunities for women on campus to have their own voice.

The movie itself was nothing short of an eye-opener, even to someone well versed with international issues. It follows the life of Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Laureate and Pakistani activist from the troubled Swat Valley region of Northwest Pakistan. The opening scene is an animated sequence depicting the Afghani folk fable of Malalai of Maiwand, after whom Yousafzai was named. This and other animated scenes scattered throughout the film nicely balance the narrative, which starts with her life as a student activist in her hometown in the Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Malala Yousafzai is the daughter of Ziauddin Yousafzai, himself a poet, school owner, and educational activist. When she was about 12, she wrote a blog for BBC Urdu under the pseudonym “Gul Makai,” detailing the Taliban occupation of Swat. In the months that followed, Taliban martial law intensified to an extent that there was a total breakdown of the establishment, and resulted in her family being the target of Taliban extremists. This culminated on Oct. 9, 2012, when a Taliban gunman opened fire at her school bus, grievously injuring Malala, then aged 15, and a few of her friends. This heinous attack sparked an enormous outpouring of national and international support for Malala’s cause, catapulting her to global fame.

Upon recovery, Malala’s family formally shifted base to the United Kingdom, from where she continued her activism for women’s rights and advocating education for women. In 2014, aged 17, Malala became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate, when she won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.

The movie depicted this journey in exquisite detail, raising awareness about the state of women and children’s rights. As the screen faded and the audience was transported back to Kochoff Hall A, it was not without a sense of fulfillment and purpose – to learn from and carry forward in their own little ways, the work and aspirations of a teenager named Malala.