Thursday, March 21, 2013

Do Not Underestimate the Power of the Teenage Girl

Act #80:  Change her script.

When I think about the 15 year-old me back in 1987, these random memories come to mind:

Nobody puts baby in a corner.

Need some time off from that emotion
Time to pick my heart up off the floor
And when that love comes down
Without devotion
Well it takes a strong man baby
But I'm showing you the door
'Cause I gotta have faith.

Margaret Thatcher.

My favorite faded blue jean jacket with matching mini-skirt.

21 Jump Street.

Maybe, the fact that Margaret Thatcher came to mind - just maybe,  some early notions of feminism were slowly brewing.  Halfway across the world, right at this moment, there is another 15-year old who much like me, has black hair and brown skin, and a propensity to speak her mind.  However, if you were to read the script of her life, words like these would emerge:

Nobel Peace prize nominee

Education and women's rights activist

BBC blogger

Chair of District Child Assembly Swat

National Youth Peace prize recipient

Assassination survivor

This week, Malala Yousafzai, after being shot in the head and neck by the Taliban for campaigning for female education in Pakistan, returned to school for the first time in the UK.   Malala and her family once lived in the Swat district of Pakistan where schools were ordered to close in a Taliban edict banning girls' education.  Militants destroyed over 150 schools.  Malala began blogging for the BBC since she was 11 years old, detailing her life under Taliban rule and sharing her views on promoting education for girls.She is the youngest person to be nominated for a Nobel Peace prize.

This year, former British Prime Minister and current U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown launched a United Nations petition called, "I am Malala" demanding that children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015.  A fund has also been set up in Malala's name and will be used to help provide education for young people. The first grant from the Malala Fund will go towards urging families in her home area of the Swat Valley to keep their daughters in school.

While it's a little too late to change the script for the 15-year old me, the 40-year old me is deeply inspired and moved by the life of young Malala.  If you find yourself in a position to enhance the script of the life of a 15-year old girl - a daughter, a niece, someone you mentor - try replacing the script that society has written for her:  Taylor Swift.  One Direction.  Abercrombie and Fitch.  Size 2.  Prom date.  Team Jacob.  Princess.  - with things that challenge, empower, inspire her to realize her own potential, and to be her best self.  Tell her about Malala.  Unlike me, maybe it won't take her another 25 years to finally believe in herself and in her power to change the world.