When the Taliban came for Malala Yousafzai, she was on a bus sitting next to two of her friends. The two girls were hit by bullets meant for Malala. They were not as severely injured, but their trauma was just as real as Malala’s. And that is Malala’s message. All young women are at risk of having the harm done to them that she had done to her. If a young woman dares to speak out against the edicts of powerful men, they risk their lives. Despite what many of our societies try to tell us, being young and female will not protect you.
Millions of young women around the world have many gifts to offer but this world is not safe for them. Young women in our own country are daily silenced by poverty, sexual abuse and harassment. How do we let these young women know there is room for them to flourish and grow, grow not into the women we want them to be but rather the women they want to be.
How do we make a world where they are less afraid to speak up and to act out than we are? Malala Yousafzai sets an example I can learn from. Bravery is being afraid and speaking out despite that fear. Living in America today, it is scary to raise your voice, to raise your head. These men, they are dangerous. They killed a woman in Charlottesville, they go to rallies and scream and then go home and film themselves waving their guns and mouthing the slogans they heard at the rally.
Being female will not keep us safe. Chivalry was never really a thing. Not all men are dangerous. But enough of them are. They shot a young girl on a bus and didn’t care that they hit two others. Even if you aren’t the speaker, you are at risk. Bravery isn’t an absence of fear, it’s being afraid and taking that fear with you when you show up and when you speak out. I am afraid but I will not be silenced. Malala is all of us. Standing up to powerful men is dangerous. But we must.