A Pashtun Joan of Arc

Malala - Pashtun Joan of Arc

Malala – Pashtun Joan of Arc

The world watched with pride as Malala from Pakistan and Satyarthi from India jointly received the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”. It was an awesome moment. Accepting the award in Oslo on December 10, all of seventeen, Malala clearly stole the show. One was humbled by her gesture of giving away the award money to the fund for building schools.

This proud Pashtun displayed such magnetism and confidence – she had the audience delighted by her lovely acceptance speech. She is the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Born on July 12, 1997 in Pakhtunkhwa province of Pashtun ethnicity,  as she elaborated on the stage yesterday, her name Malala means “grief-stricken”! She speaks flawless Pashto, English and Urdu. In the wake of tragic attempt to kill her, over 2 million people signed the Right to Education campaign’s petition that led to ratification of the first Right to Education Bill in Pakistan.

World outpouring continued unabated after the dastardly act. Malala Yousafzai first drew the public eye when her cry for education became known through the diary published on BBC Urdu. But when she was shot in the head in October 2012 by Taliban she captured the international imagination. Surviving the dramatic assault when a militant shot her in the school bus in Swat her home town, she was badly wounded.  Since then her she has had a fan following like no other. If the standing ovation at the ceremony is anything to go by, Malala yet continues to set sparks afire. And with such utter humility.

Besides the Nobel Peace Prize, she is the recipient of Sakharov Prize, Simone de Beauvoir Prize, National Youth Peace Prize and has an honorary Canadian citizenship. Malala Yousafzai is now turned to be a Pakistani activist for female education. She has become an icon for the fight for children’s education rights. “I had two options – one was to remain silent and wait to be killed,” Yousafzai said. “And the second was to speak up and then be killed. I chose the second one. I decided to speak up.” Her incredible speech will be remembered in a long long time.

Safety First for Our Women and Girls

Safety First

Safety First

While the state owes responsibility for safety and security of its citizens, looking into the current scenario of crimes against women it now appears we need to instill self protective measures to keep women prepared from nefarious eventualities. The political will to tackle this menace defies explanation. It is beyond comprehension what the government has in mind when it comes to addressing critical safety issues. Stringent capital punishment is the only way to contain this crime. It is mind boggling that the utilization of Rs. 1,000 crore under the Nirbhaya Fund remains untouched! What are we waiting for when every day we witness occurrence of assault and fatalities among women of all ages.

The latest incident involving the rape and victimization of a woman financial analyst by a taxi driver in Delhi brings all the angst and worry back again. Plans to make the One Stop Crisis Centers for women operational have not found their mark. Perhaps the files have not moved. We read reports stating “the various schemes were yet to be finalized”. Does the government still think this is non-serious business and hopes to dust it under the carpet? Or bicker over it during zero-hour? It is time now that women followed some safety precautions to avert and allay these kinds of sinister events.

A planned personal-safety approach would be good for women who have to go outdoors on their own. Women are of course constantly targeted the moment they step out of homes. Be it the domestic help, college student, office worker or tourists – they become the cynosure of molesters and rapists. The incidents of harassment and aggression happen right there on roads, buses, metro trains – in fact everywhere. Precautions may be taken to outwit offenders and to ward off unwanted advances. Safety training should be routinely drummed into minds of young girls.

Women should follow a set of common-sensical tips to train their minds to circumvent such incidents. They should keep family members aware of their activities who should check on them constantly. Next, your demeanor should appear to discourage advances. Always walk with confidence since predators seek out timid and vulnerable looking victims. At all times be aware of immediate surroundings and listen to your gut feeling. Do not draw unnecessary attention to yourself so as to unwittingly attract a predator’s interest. If confronted by a person look him straight in the eye and question his behavior loudly. Most predators avoid public attention. Avoid being alone after dark and stay away from isolated areas. It is a good idea to enroll for personal defense classes to learn basics of hand combat for women. Find out where you can buy personal alarms, protection devices like pepper sprays and mobile phones with emergency apps.

Cell phones today can be used most effectively in case of emergencies. They are helpful for women who have to travel a lot. Safety apps for women reduce the risk of travelling through unfamiliar territories. These applications can be found on smart phone systems. The most common of such apps allows you to alert your family when you are in danger. Just two taps send predetermined messages to six close friends or relatives. They will also convey your exact location and address. Another app allows you to capture a picture of the attacker to a harassment prevention internet site where he is identified. Another smart phone app sends alarms to multiple guardians simultaneously. While one of them would be receiving a phone call, others would be receiving messages.

As they say self help is the best help. So by the time we wait for state systems to become effective let us teach our women and girls to be mindful of their lives.  A well defined safety plan is the best bet. One does have to go out – study, work and earn livings. And so they best know how to take care. Women today must have the strength and determination to fight back violence without fear, embarrassment or guilt.  Be aware, be prepared and be on guard. Finally check out this wonderful American website http://www.justyellfire.com/. Watch especially the 20 minute video that teaches girls how to fight back against sexual assault and abduction. Since 2006 this website has empowered 1 million girls in 44 countries with getaway skills and the right to live without fear of being a victim of sexual assault.

Be Your Own Vigilante

Be Your Own Vigilante