Influential Voices in Unexpected Places

In honor of the National Day of the Girl, Z Daughters and I headed over to Annapolis this weekend to see He Named Me Malala. The movie is a documentary about Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teenager who was shot by the Taliban for advocating for girls’ education. Malala’s father was an educator and through him, she developed a love for learning and the courage to speak her mind. Because of this, the extremist regime in her country sought to silence her (and her father). They attempted to kill her, but she survived the attack and now lives in exile with her family in England.

Despite being brutally attacked and threatened with further assault if she returns to her home country, Malala continues to confront world leaders about the importance of girls’ education and overall well-being. In 2014, she became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Her story is so amazing that you can’t help but wonder how she managed to survive.

I took the girls to see the movie because I want to expose them to global issues. I want them to appreciate the opportunity they’ve been given to learn. I want them to be inspired to create innovative solutions to the world’s inequities. I want them to develop a hunger for life outside of their neighborhoods. I want them to dream and build and lead and rule the world! I know. I have lofty goals.

Overall, the movie was meh. I wish it would have been told chronologically. I wish they would have provided more background information for viewers who were unfamiliar with Malala or the Taliban. And truthfully, I hated those little animated vignettes that were interspersed throughout the film. So, I asked myself, was this really a successful event.

Did I expose the girls to a global issue?
Were they inspired?
Are they ready to rule the world?
Probably not

But a funny thing happened in the car ride on the way home.

One of the young adult mentors struck up a conversation with one of the high-schoolers who attends her alma mater. They talked about the classes she is taking, the teachers she has, and tips for excelling in each subject. They talked about how some of the most difficult teachers’ strategies equipped the mentor to successfully complete her undergraduate studies. Now she is preparing to apply for graduate school. They chatted all the way home…guide to novice.

Mary McLeod Bethune mentoring Dorothy Irene Height.

Not every act of bravery will be rewarded with a Nobel Peace Prize. Not every advocate for education will speak from a podium with a microphone in her hand. But some of the world’s most influential voices on the importance of education and high achievement ride in a Honda CR-V, eating skittles and texting her boyfriend while dropping knowledge in the ear of a younger girl. These stretch jean wearing, IPhone toting ladies influence their little sisters every time we meet. And THAT is the mark of a successful event.

Malala Yousafzai has an amazing story, but I have to believe that somewhere in her life is a wise woman who takes out time to share with her pillars of wisdom. And these are the pillars that enabled her to survive.

And those are the pillars that will enable my girls to survive. Those are the pillars that have always enabled women to survive.


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