Hearing Malala – Christina Lamb
Malala’s story doesn’t need much of an introduction – as a 15 year old she was shot by the Taleban for wanting to go to school. Surviving the incident Malala’s voice has become synonymous with the need for education especially for girls around the world. Christina Lamb has written a book in Malala’s own voice – “she doesn’t need a spokesperson” was a response to a listener’s question which underlies the basis for the book itself. As a teenager Malala has an incredible amount to say, and against the backdrop of Pakistan over the last decade Lamb sheds light on some of the paradoxes that exist with the Taleban: women can only be educated by women teachers and treated by women doctors – so how do they get educated?
Now based in the UK, Lamb spent days interviewing Malala and living with her family. She also visited the SWAT valley, seeing firsthand her school and home as well as staying with Malala’s cousins in her parent’s village. A very conservative society, Lamb was hosted in the women’s quarters where she had to wait for the men to eat before being served herself. Her experience made Malala’s journey seem even more amazing, especially as she came to know Malala’s mother, a deeply conservative woman who does not feel she has a place in Malala’s book.
What becomes more poignant is the family’s recent experience of having to leave everything behind as they moved to the UK for safety reasons. Initially in an apartment they now live in a house with an electric gate that keeps the public out but also them in. A cultural chasm between what they had in Pakistan with an open and supportive community is now a new reality with different social norms where women drive and have public roles. While Malala continues to school in the UK she dreams of returning to her home country and building support for education (10 million Pakistani children are still without school).
When she graduates from university perhaps in 5-6 years things may well have changed for the good and her safety will be secure. However, given she is now criticized by many in her country for having “sold out” she has a challenging path ahead – but her dynamism, strength and incredible passion for life are infectious and as her school peers say “we are all Malala’s”.