Pakistan: Standing Up Against Taliban Attacks on Girls’ Schools
Monday, July 15, 2013 12:00 PM

The Taliban’s repeated attacks on girls’ schools and female students in Pakistan have made many families unwilling to risk sending their children to school. In the northwest region of Pakistan, the Taliban has attacked over 800 schools in the past four years, usually by planting explosives in the buildings. The group considers education for girls to be “un-Islamic” and has also committed acts of violence against the students themselves in an effort to make students and their families fearful of returning to school and to silence advocates for women’s education.
One such advocate is Malala Yousafzai, whose shooting last October and astonishingly quick recovery has drawn attention to the plight of Pakistani girls. Yousafzai, who was 15 years old at the time of the attack, survived a shot to the head at close range that required her to be evacuated to Britain for surgery. Already an outspoken proponent of girls’ education prior to her attack, this brave young woman is even more determined to bring change to the region in the aftermath of the shooting. During her speech at the United Nations on July 12, Yousafzai reiterated her commitment to the cause despite the attacks on her and her friends by the Taliban: “The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”
Despite the voices of advocates like Yousafzai and the U.N.’s commitment to achieving full enrollment for school children around the world by 2015, the situation on the ground in Pakistan remains unresolved. Although some schools have increased security, the government is unable to provide sufficient protection for schools or halt the Taliban’s campaign against education. In response to the destruction of local school buildings, communities have set up tent schools, with some teachers even opening up their homes to students. Yet many families consider it too dangerous to send their daughters back to school after such attacks. However, the call for education for all remains strong. During her speech at the U.N. Yousafzai emphasized the need for education to combat the Taliban’s extremism, saying, “Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution.”
Compiled from: Siddiqui, Taha and Declan Walsh, “Siege by Taliban Strains Pakistani Girls’ Schools,The New York Times (11 July, 2013); Nichols, Michelle, “Pakistan’s Malala, shot by Taliban, takes education plea to U.N.,Reuters (12 July, 2013).