Malala Yousafzai first came to attention aged 11, when she started writing a blog for the BBC Urdu service under the pen-name Gul Makaj. She wrote of the difficulties facing girls in the Swat Valley region of North West Pakistan, which was under Taliban control, and spoke out against the edict banning girls’ education.
In 2009, Malala began to appear on television as a public advocate for female education. She was awarded a national peace prize by the Pakistani government, nominated for an international award, and made several public appearances.
In October 2012, whilst on her way home from school, Malala was shot in the head. A Pakistani Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility. She survived the attack and has now become a global champion for girls’ education.
After her story came to light, across the UK, Soroptimist clubs sprang into action to support her and to denounce the actions taken to deny girls an education.
Hundreds of Soroptimists signed a national petition and educated the public about the plight of girls denied safe access to education. The petition called for the Pakistani government to take action so that all girls between 5-16 years would be provided with education.
They took visible action – several SI Clubs walked to seven bridges within the UK and carried banners and read out loud information about the plight of women and girls thoughout the world.
They viewed the Hoshyar Foundation website and circulated the films it across three schools, around the club and across the Region as each viewing attracted funds for the charity to support Malala’s cause.
They presented a petition to local politicians asking them to draw attention to the problem in Pakistan following the shooting and to support any efforts to persuade the Pakistani Government to educate girls.
Another club created a display stand on International Women’s Day in their local shopping centre, with pictures of women and girls in various situations in Pakistan, written information, posters and leaflets giving information and suggestions for further action. This was part of a partnership with Oxfam.
One region organised a candlelit vigil in support of Malala. The vigil was outside the Pakistani Consulate and all clubs in the region were invited to participate. It was timed to coincide with the handing over in Pakistan of the petition mentioned above.
One club discussed the issues together and signed a global petition. One member discussed the situation with 16 and 17 year olds in a school where she works.
Members all across the UK, and in other SIGBI countries, took part in the campaign to Stand for Malala, raising awareness about her story and the dire situation for girls in Pakistan.
- Sometimes good can come out of the most horrific actions. Having a catalyst such as Malala is an opportunity to take a stand and react as a global voice for women.
- Petitions are powerful if enough individuals sign. It’s a very simple action for one person, but can have significant global impact with enough support.
- Coordinated efforts across clubs in different locations sends a compelling message that Soroptimists may be spread across the world, but are joined together in their work to take a stand on issues such as this.