My report on the vigil for Malala Yousufzai in Charlestown, Boston, last Sunday, an event that local families are holding on a weekly basis to show their support for her and for the right of children, especially girls, worldwide to get an education. Please also see the I am Malala campaign initiated by the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, aiming to get every child in the world to school.
Malala’s plight is “related to the potential for world peace”
By Beena Sarwar
BOSTON, Oct 21: “Why am I so upset about Malala? Why should we continue to discuss this?” asked Joanne Samuelson at a vigil on Sunday at the historic Bunker Hill monument in Boston, that she initiated for the second week running for Malala Yusufzai, the teenage Pakistani girl, whom the Taliban tried to kill last week.
Both vigils in Charlestown, Boston, were attended by local families, including children, as well as members of the Pakistani community in the greater Boston area.
Why she cares, explained Joanne Samuelson, who works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is “because I find it unacceptable that any child in any country is shot because he or she spoke her mind. I find it unacceptable that anyone anywhere is denied the opportunity to become educated. That children are killed on the streets of Boston and Cambridge regularly and we consider it necessary, or normal.”
Furthermore, she added, she believes that this incident is “related to the potential for world peace. If girls don’t get educated in South Asia, we will continue to see conflict. I think world peace is attainable, and how we react to Malala’s plight, to the plight of girls in Pakistan and elsewhere, is tied to it. We need to show the children that we don’t accept the violence. That we will do something about it.”
Dick Runci, an independent writer and brand consultant, shared his idea of the “MY” campaign, based on the initials of the wounded teen activist, who is being treated at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, U.K. (updates at the hospital website).
“It could become MY dreams, MY voice, MY struggle, in different cities – MY Boston, MY New York, and so on,” he suggested.
Jennifer Smart, another vigil participant who identified herself as a marketing strategist, offered to help link this idea to cause initiatives around the world, and get them to post it on their websites.
“We could put it on hats and t-shirts,” piped up eight-year-old Georgia Branger-Klein, holding a candle inside a paper cup.
“This relates to who girls and women are treated, not just elsewhere but in this country too,” said Amy Branger, Georgia’s mother, a public policy consultant. “It’s about girls around the world. Malala has become a spark point for the world.”
“We must keep up the pressure,” said Michael Semple, a leading expert on the Taliban and the Pashtun tribes who is currently a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard Kennedy School. “That is something that even some within the Taliban movement advocate, who disagree with moves against girls’ education.”
Invited to speak, Prof. Dr M. Jalisi from Karachi said that those who attacked Malala Yousufzai had targeted not just her, but girls’ education in Pakistan. “We must make three main demands,” said the former Dean of Medicine at Jinnah Post-Graduate Medical Institution, Karachi, who is visiting his son Dr Scharukh Jalisi, head of Boston Medical Center’s Division of Head and Neck Surgery.
“First, measures must be taken to ensure that the terrorists are not be able to attack any girl or woman, or anyone. Second, Pakistan must increase its education budget from two to at least four or five percent (Sri Lanka allocates 10 %, Bangladesh 5%, India 4%, Iran 10 %). And third, the United States must spend more on education in Pakistan.”
“Earlier, in my days, it was difficult for girls to get an education, but we did it,” added his wife Humaira Jalisi. A graduate of D.J. Science College and Karachi University’s Chemistry Department, she stressed, “Education of girls is key. If mothers are not educated, what will become of the children?”