I have been wondering for a while how Malala Yousafzai’s recovery was really going. We’ve seen the images, especially the ones taken for TIME Magazine in their Person of the Year issue, that suggest she’s doing well, even though she’s undergone many surgeries.
But I also know what a point blank shot to the head can do if you survive. We all do, after watching the recovery of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. She is courageous and valiant but, not surprisingly, her speech is still halting and certainly not the same as before her shooting.
So I was stunned when I saw the amazing and inspiring video of Malala talking about her goals and her mission as she continues her own recovery:
As the mom of a daughter not much younger than Malala, I’ve done a lot of thinking about how to get my very lucky and privileged girl to connect with what millions of girls around the world have to deal with just to learn to read and write, nevermind anything beyond that, and what that means for the very slow advancement of girls around the globe. I’ve left newspaper clippings and magazine articles for her to read, but as anyone with a seventh-grader knows, you can lead a teen to the newspaper but you can’t make them read it.
I understand this story is difficult for girls to get their heads around. The idea of being persecuted for wanting an education is contrary to everything our American daughters believe in our “girls can do anything boys can” world.
But now Malala is well enough to start her mission to raise money to help the 32 million girls in other countries around the world, like hers, where educating women and girls is the exception, not the rule. So I’m going to have a sit down with our daughter about the Malala Fund (I am not associated with them in any way). I know my middle-schooler is grateful, in her own teen-age way, for the things she has, but it’s hard to give our children context. It’s like when we were kids if we didn’t clean our dinner plates, our parents would say, “Well, you know there are starving children in Africa who would love your food.” Would would roll our eyes and sigh and do our best to eat that food, but we had no context for the actual issue they were talking about. Because regardless of whether it was fancy meal or just some soup or mac and cheese, as kids most of us never worried about whether there would be food on the table.
Similarly, our children, for the most part, don’t worry about whether they’ll be educated. Some of us may home school or choose private schools or stick with our public school system, but our children will be educated and at least wind up with a high school diploma. So I understand why it’s almost impossible for me to get my girl to relate to what has happened to Malala, and many other girls struggling for and education.
In our community, where I’m labeled the “mean mom” because my daughter doesn’t have a smartphone and isn’t allowed to wander local shopping areas alone with her friends, there’s a huge understanding gap that needs to be closed between how “hard” your life is as an American teen girl vs. that of a Pakistani girl. But we’re going to start down that road now. Because if a girl as brave as Malala can recover and essentially stare down her Taliban foes, I can carve out more time to find a way for my teen to understand what that really means.
Read more about the intersection of motherhood and politics at my place PunditMom, The Broad Side, and in my Amazon best-selling book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America (now available for your Kindle or Nook!)