Malala, teen activist, nobel peace prize nominee and champion for girls’ education is not giving interviews. At least, that’s what her literary agent told me. “I’m afraid you’ve misunderstood,” she said. “Malala Yousafzai is not available for interviews.” With a reported £2 million book contract for her life story, perhaps it’s no wonder she’s not free to meet me.
Shame. Her story fascinates me. Everything I take for granted, has been a struggle for her. JFS girls can express themselves freely-too freely, some might say. Waking at 6.30 in the morning to commute to Kingsbury may not seem like a privilege, but it is. In the Swat area of Pakistan that Malala comes from, educating girls is a dangerous business.
She came to public attention aged just 11, when she wrote an anonymous blog for the BBC Urdu service about life under the Taliban. Three years later, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman because of her campaign for girls’ education. The bullet hit her eyebrow and travelled under the skin down the whole side of her head before entering her shoulder. After extensive surgery in Pakistan, she was flown to the UK for rehabilitation. She’s at school in Birmingham now and she and her family intend to stay in the UK for a few more years before returning home.
Malala has been compared to Anne Frank by former US first lady Laura Bush. “How wonderful it is that no one need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world” wrote Anne Frank. This is our world. Malala has taken a stand and is an inspiration to my generation.
JIEP may be enthusiastic, but they’re not the Taliban. The donuts may be hard, but they’re not bullets. And girls in Malala’s school back home in Pakistan could only dream of the religious freedom we enjoy within JFS. It may be a faith school run on orthodox Jewish lines, but there’s scope for freedom of expression and mutual respect for the entire spectrum of religious observance.
Despite the strict JFS uniform policy; we are free to dress as we wish the second we leave the school premises. Some choose to wear knee length skirts; most don’t, risking hypothermia and a bad reputation. The freedom to dress as we please is to be cherished.
We may feel we pay a high price at our school, but as sacrifices go, Meal deal 1 (£2.10) is not as painful as it could be. The smoked salmon bagels on the other hand…..
Malala’s story is inspirational because of her personal bravery, leadership and resilience. Above all, it’s her smile. There’s no pouting or posing. Just a smile that says, “Bring it on.”