The Day of the Girl in a bad week

Malala Yousufzai, a fourteen year old girl advocating for girls’ right to education in Pakistan, is still fighting to save her life. She was brutally shot by the Taliban October 9 while in her school bus. The Taliban has shamelessly reiterated its vow to kill her.

A day later, Amanda Todd, a young Canadian girl slightly older than Malala, killed herself after relentless bullying. The video she made as a call for help a month before her death is chilling and utterly painful to watch.

Neither one deserved what happened to her.

By the end of the week, I attended a regional Amnesty International Canada meeting, where one of the guest speakers was Marina Nemat, author of Prisoner in Tehran. As she spoke of her time in prison at the age of sixteen – just slightly older than Malala and Amanda – the room fell silent. Her gentle humour and recounting of memories dancing to the Bee Gees inflected at the start of her story were pushed aside by a deft narrative articulating incomprehension, isolation, and heinous violations. The strength drawn from hundreds of fellow prisoners, listening to their stories of previously normal lives as she stood in line with them waiting to use the toilet, reflected the importance of something so key, so elemental to our ability to persevere in the face of adversity. We need to talk, we need to listen, we need to be heard, and we need to be kind to each other. After Mrs. Nemat spoke I could not help but wonder how Amanda Todd’s choices could have been different if someone listened, or if she hadn’t been bullied in the first place. As for Malala, how different would her fate have been if more people had not supported her in her actions?

Amanda and Malala’s stories never should have spiraled to the tragic events that unfolded this past week. The day after Amanda took her life,
 the world celebrated the first international Day of the Girl. It’s meant to be a movement to “speak out against gender bias and advocate for girls’ rights everywhere.” I’m sure the sad irony of that day following these events is not lost on many who hope for a better, safer future for all girls. The Day of the Girl is needed, from Pakistan to Canada and everywhere else. But a day, of course, is insufficient. I hope there are better days ahead.

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