Prayers For Malala

“Give a girl an education and introduce her properly into the world.”  –Jane Austen


This is my granddaughter.                            And this is Malala Yousafzai.

When I saw Malala’s picture in the paper on Tuesday and read the news that this beautiful young girl had been shot in the head by craven extremists who stormed her school bus, it took me a moment before I could red further.  I couldn’t tear my eyes from hers.  At first I couldn’t imagine anyone holding a gun to this child’s head and pulling the trigger.  And then I could see it in my mind’s eye, and I wanted to weep.  But instead I read on.  Malala started speaking out in behalf of the girls in Pakistan when she was eleven years old.  She started a blog—this medium my fellow writers and I use every day—and told readers all over the world how passionate she is about going to school.  For her passion and her willingness to speak up for her desires and dreams, she was targeted by the Taliban.


I looked up from the paper, and there stood my granddaughter.  Oh, my goodness, those eyes.  They could be sisters.  I showed my granddaughter Malala’s picture and the headline, and she sat beside me and read the story.  “I don’t understand,” she said.  “She just wanted to go to school.”

Just wanted to go to school.  It might seem that this tragedy, this injustice happened a world away, but the world is small, and my granddaughter will soon be eleven, and it was not so very long ago that I was eleven or that my mother was eleven or that her mother was eleven.  My grandmother had to quit school when she was eleven.  When she was in 6th grade—the second of 10 children—it was decided that she was needed at home, which was a farm in Virginia, the U.S. of A.  And at that time, when my grandmother was eleven, her mother (my great-grandmother) was not allowed to vote.

I was the first woman in my family to graduate from college.  I attended Mount Holyoke, the oldest women’s college in the country, founded in 1837.  In the grand scheme of things we American women are not so far ahead of our sisters in Pakistan in terms of civil rights.  When I was a kid I had the impression that suffragettes marched around carrying signs for a few years until mean saw the light, said “Of course!  What were we thinking?” and amended the Constitution.  Not so, sisters.  Our grandmothers fought long and hard, sacrificed much, put their lives, fortunes and sacred honors on the line just as surely as the founding “fathers” did.  (Why are the founding mothers so rarely mentioned?)

These women in Pakistan are our sisters.  The Lakota say that we are all relatives, and I know it’s true.  I looked into the eyes of the child on the front page of my local paper this week, and I saw a granddaughter of my heart.  I looked up and there stood her sister.  We read together and talked about Malala’s hopes and dreams and about the women who came before us and made it possible for us to pursue an education, think and choose for ourselves and to vote for those who would represent us.  I read somewhere that it is the grandparents who passes wisdom to the child.  What an important job.

“If a daughter is born to a person and he brings her up, gives her a good education and trains her in the arts of life, I shall myself stand between him and hell-fire.” the Prophet Muhammad

God bless Malala Yousafzai. 


About Kathleen Eagle

Kathleen Eagle is the award-winning, New York Times best-selling author of over forty novels.
This entry was posted in education for women, Malala Yousafzai, women's rights. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Prayers For Malala

  1. Eloquently and beautifully said, Kathy. For those who haven’t seen it, I recommend watching the movie Iron Jawed Angels as a primer on what our great-grandmothers went through to get the vote. It’s available on Netflix.

    • Hi, Candace!
      Thanks for mentioning “Iron Jawed Angels.” Fabulous movie. I thought of it as I was writing this post late last night and couldn’t remember the title. Must-see, along with the Ken Burns PBS mini series “Prohibition,” which is also truly enlightening in terms of women’s history. Again, our education about this movement has been pretty much limited to this image of dour female demonstrators pushing for an ill-conceived Constitutional amendment. Indeed it was ill-conceived–I can’t think of an instance in which an amendment intended to prohibit individual human rights would have a place in either state or U.S. Constitution–but the history of the movement is so much more complex than I realized.

  2. Very well said true. My kids often complain when they don’t get to play a video game, eat something and I remind them that kids are worse off in other parts of the world..even some inner cities. Many Blessings. Nicole

  3. Mary Louise says:

    Interesting enough, this morning’s local news in Boston had a segment on an Afghan woman living in Mass., Razia Jan, who after 9/11 returned to Afghanastan to help. She decided to build a school for girls in a area outside of Kabul. Even though the Taliban would throw acid on girls attempting to go to school or even kidnap them, Razia succeeded in opening the school. She started with 100 students and today there are 350 girls attending school. Razia and her Ray of Hope Foundation are finalists in CNN’s Hero’s Campaign for 2012. If she wins the prize is $250,000, enough to keep the school running for 3 years. In my eyes, Razia is a true hero.

    • Thanks for speaking up for Razia! I love the CNN Heroes program, watch it every year. It’s always difficult to choose among so many deserving heroes, and Razia is truly a brave woman and a real hero. Malala’s father also started a school for girls in Afghanistan. Good teachers, good schools–joy in the present and hope for the future.

  4. This story is beyond awful. I only pray the day comes that the women in that area of the world find a way to rise up and over the uneducated, sexist men in their lives. Unfortunately, I don’t see this happening peacefully so the odds are against it. And that makes me sad.

    • It is sad. But I can’t think of a struggle for human rights that didn’t involve bloodshed–some certainly more than others–and tremendous sacrifice. What women lack in brawn they more than make up for in brain. And heart!

  5. Cindy Gerard says:

    Thanks, Kathy for writing this post on the blog. It’s very moving … and very troubling

  6. shirleen Miller says:

    Nothing should surprise us any more but when I think of a young girl like this who has faught for freedom to learn my heart breaks. Why a bunch of little spolit boys in adult bodies can continue to get away with this is beyond me. For those who stand up for freedom, for those in these countries who stand up for freedom and girls I salute you and will send prayers your way to a sucessful war against freedom for all. God Bless.

  7. The good news is that people the world over are spreading Malala’s story and praying for her recovery. She survived surgery but her condition is critical.

  8. Kylie Brant says:

    So many of the rights we take for granted are but dreams for people in other countries. That’s why we need to be vigilant against those who would take our hard-fought rights away and drag us back thirty-forty years. This girl’s bravery is awe-inspiring.

  9. leannebanks says:

    So very sad. My grandmother was asked to quit school in fifth or sixth grade so she could get a job and make money. I have to say I don’t think it harmed her much. She was always a hard, happy worker, and one of the smartest women I’ve ever met.

  10. taurus says:

    It’s so sad that a thirst for knowledge is considered a threat.

  11. librarypat says:

    We often forget just how short a time women and minorities have had full rights in this country. The doors have not been open for us that long. In college I participated in an environmental field day for 6th grade students. Of over 60 people representing college and government agencies, I was the ONLY female involved. That was in 1968. Hard to imagine any of these agencies without a high percentage of women today.
    This one act by the Taliban may do more than all their past attacks to show just what kind of people they are and what a country controlled by them would be like. They have shown their true colors and what a warped interpretation of the Quaran they are following.

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