16 years ago I made a solemn commitment thus ‘My unflinching conclusion is that I am not here to live for myself but for my generation, beginning with serving my family and my immediate areas of influence. I strongly believe that I must help my generation attain and maximise their God-given potentials and empower them to liberate themselves from the oppressive limitations woven around them by any exploitative status quo. This is a task that must be done.’ Years gone by, God has helped me to be true to this personal commitment. I have not only received divine help to be committed, He has helped me to partner with local and international bodies to find expression for my commitment.
One lesson that have remained with me over the years is that nobody gives you power, you seize it. What is power? It is simply the ability to cause or prevent an action. When I speak about power, I consciously refer to human ingenuity. It is defined by two components. The first, we are limitless in our power to create. It further means that everything that has been created is a sign that we can do better. It is a commitment not to leave the world and its affairs the same way we met it. The second, we are limitless in our options for solutions to human problems.
The ultimate lesson, I have learnt about power is that we are never as powerless as we think or situation makes us to believe. I believe that is why Clair Boothe said, ‘there are no hopeless situations, but only hopeless people.’ The truth of the matter is that our world is yet to witness a hopeless situation but we have witnessed in torrential order battalions of hopeless men and women, who have abdicated the noble power to give evil a fight to finish and created invincibility around it. But if we dare to blow the whistle, we will always be surprised how much support we will garner. We will also understand that evil is not as invincible as it appears. The strength of evil is its seeming invincibility, created in the first instance by our covert and overt commitment to watch evil go unchallenged. This man-made invincibility is the source of fear and when fear takes root, we throw our hands in the air and pass the baton of responsibility of exercising power to fate, an overrated entity, which has no independent relevance, except as it is directed by human beings. A little wonder, the writers of the English dictionary declared, ‘chance’ as one of the synonyms of ‘fate.’ In the hands of fate, you also find active indifference, duplicity of silence and above all enthronement and acceptance of evil as a celebrated norm.
I dare submit that when power is engaged in the order of human ingenuity, it becomes fundamental to influence and influence is fundamental to impact. The interesting thing is that power is easier to exercise than many of us think. It is available to all. In fact, we are all born with enormous power. It is designed to be exercised first over one’s area of influence, beginning with oneself. It has the capacity to grow as one shows faithfulness in little.
My understanding of the basics of the dynamics of power helps me to relate with those who decide to exercise power against all odds. The truth is that there are never odds formidable enough to stand against power when the human spirit finds the liberty to express it. Thus Peter J. Daniel said, ‘the gift of courage isn’t rare, it’s just that it’s rarely tried.’ These are my thoughts today as I think about Malala Yousufzai as she turns 16.
Malala seized power at a very tender age of 12 when she chose to defy the Taliban to not only attend school but to also become the voice of many Pakistani girl children, who were banned from going to school by the Taliban. At the beginning of 2009, Yousafzai had an opportunity to write for BBC Urdu when her father, Ziauddin, was asked by Abdul Hai Kakkar a BBC reporter out of Pakistan, if any women at his school would write about life under the Taliban.
Malala declares her mission: ‘My purpose is to serve humanity.’ She fearlessly challenged the ineffectiveness of the Pakistani security services thus, ‘it seems that it is only when dozens of schools have been destroyed and hundreds others closed down that the army thinks about protecting them. Had they conducted their operations here properly, this situation would not have arisen.’ She does not have time to passing the bulk, she figured out the solution and her role therein as she declares with clarity and passion in the documentary, titled, ‘Class Dismissed,’ ‘I have a new dream…I must be a politician to save this country. There are so many crises in our country. I want to remove these crises.’
In October 2011, in recognition of her selfless activism, Desmond Tutu announced Malala Yousafzai’s nomination for the International Children’s Peace Prize. As a follow up to the international accolade, the Pakistani government honoured her with the unprecedented Pakistani National Youth Peace Prize in December same year.
By 2012, Malala became too hot to handle for the Taliban. The fire of her activism, which began like a little flicker in the corner of her conscience, had become a big national and international conflagration of indictment, raging to consume the evil of banning girls’ education in Pakistan. The enemy reacted with their usual tactic, ‘if you cannot stop the message, stop the messenger.’ On 9 October 2012, a Talban gunman shot Yousafzai as she rode home on a bus after taking an exam in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. She survived, though she suffered seeming unmanageable injuries.
Malala has not only defied the Taliban, she has also defied the pangs of death. It is worthy of note that Time magazine, in it’s In the April 18, 2013 edition, featured Malala, in the Icon section, as one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World.” Today, the unimpeachable crusader turns 16 and she presents the U.N. secretary-general with a petition asking for help to get all children, especially girls, into school by 2015. She will also address youth leaders at the world body’s headquarters in New York. Today has also been declared as Malala Day.
The relevance of Malala’s activism is revealed in the U.N declaration that 61 million children worldwide do not attend primary school. Many of them live in conflict zones. Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations in his goodwill message on Malala’s birthday informed, ‘when women and girls are educated, they accelerate development in their families and communities. For every extra year of schooling, a girl increases her future earnings by up to 20 percent.’
Last September, the secretary-general in support of the right of the children of the world to education launched the U.N. Global Education First Initiative with the goal of putting every child in school and improving the quality of learning. I declare my full support for U.N. Global Education First Initiative and A World at School campaign to mark Malala Day. I declare open a new column on my blog(www.taiwoakinlami.wordpress.com), named, ‘A Vote for U.N. Global Education First Initiative,’ which will run every Friday to promote the ideals, values and messages of the initiative and Malala Day. So help me God.
It is interesting that Malala was named after Malalai of Maiwand a poetess and young Pashtun woman who fought alongside Ayub Khan and was responsible for the Afghan victory at the Battle of Maiwand on 27 July 1880 during the Second Anglo-Afghan War. She is also known as ‘The Afghan Jeanne D’Arc.’ Today, Malala is entering into shoes bigger than that of her name sake. As she stands face to face with history to plead the noble cause of the world children, I salute her courage. Happy Birthday Malala and I wish you well in your noble crusade.