Team ibu is sitting on the porch working over lunch when the Tweet comes through: Malala accepts the Nobel Peace Prize. Immediately we turn our eyes to her speech and an unexpected silence falls upon us. The 17 year old girl from Swat Valley takes the moment entirely into her hands and holds us there - her clear words, her unapologetic presence, her mythic story - until eyes were filled with the hope and wonder of what one girl can do, with the spirit of this one who has come to lead us.
Malala Yousafzai is surely the face of ibu. I did not wait for someone else. Her compelling voice rings out in lilting tones. And then again, with quiet force: I did not wait for someone else, as though to ask, and why would you?
And then the severity of her life becomes absolutely real as she speaks of the Taliban threats against her and other girls. She says, I had really two options. One was not to speak and wait to be killed. And the second was to speak up and then be killed.
Here, most of us do not live with those extremities, especially at 14 years of age. But she did, and chose the latter, writing anonymous blogs for the BBC from the age of 11 and then lived on, through bullet shot and skull replacement, to become the voice of 31 million girls without education.
But, in other perhaps more soul-scripted ways, we all have that same choice. To choose not to speak is to not take a place in the world, not declare myself, not find my voice . . . and that is to wait to die. The crucial articulation of who I am simply withers away.
Or, I can choose to speak up. To find the particular love in me that wants to speak and give it a voice. Risk the dangers of introducing my raw self into the world. Risk the death of my comfortable life. But maybe live on to change my world, or just myself, a little. Or a lot.
Malala puts the choice before us. She is an icon for the movement. This young woman demands her place in the world, and not just her place, but one for every girl. A girl has the power to go forward in her life, she said, with her spine reaching tall. She wants the daughter of her Taliban would-be assassin to also be educated. She claims sisterhood with the Nigerian school girls kidnapped and still missing. She stands for all.
Here’s to a high moment of hope, when a young woman tyranny tried to silence is given the entire world as her audience. And she speaks. Oh my, how she speaks.
This is not the end. This is not the end, Malala spoke with passion. This is really the beginning . . . ibu thinks so, too. We join Malala in speaking for the freedom of girls everywhere to move forward, growing into their own sovereign and self-authorized lives.
All the best,
Susan Hull Walker