Role Models & Heroes: Malala Yousafzai (2018)

By October 21, 2018 June 20th, 2019 Bnei Mitzvah, Heroes & Role Models
The following essay on role model Malala Yousafzai was written by Isabel Lubinsky, a middle schooler, enrolled in City Congregation’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah program. Students spend a year and a half researching their heritage, values and beliefs, and write on a Jewish subject of their choice, their major project. The process improves both the student’s writing and critical thinking skills, as well as his/her self confidence and overall maturity.

When I think of a hero, I generally think of characters in books. People who are willing to risk anything, willing to throw themselves into the crossfire. While people like this may exist in real life, when I think of the individuals that have changed the world, sacrificed everything to do what is right, role model rolls easily off the tongue. A role model is someone who mirrors the values that we as people try to implement.

The dictionary defines role model as, “a person looked to by others as an example to be imitated.” While this may be true, a role model is dependent on the views of each person. Role models speak to people’s sense of what is right and what is wrong. They act on their belief of what is right, and those who agree with them see it as a step in the right direction.

For me this person is Malala Yousafzai. Malala was born July 12, 1997 in Mingora, Pakistan. Her father, a teacher, instilled in her a love for learning and promised she would be treated as an equal in his home. However, in 2007, Malala’s town, Swat Valley, was taken over by the Taliban. The Taliban do not believe girls should have the same rights as boys. They banned girls from attending school, blowing up girls’ schools but keeping schools for boys open. Though many believed this was wrong, people were afraid to stand up to the Taliban. The Taliban silenced people with fear, issuing threats on the radio, performing public punishments and even murdering those who defied them.

Although Malala feared that the Taliban might also target her, she refused to be silenced. Using the power of the written word, she spoke out to protect girls’ rights to education, writing blog entries under the name Gul Makai. She realized that denying girls’ rights to education would mean limiting their opportunities. She also publicly campaigned for girls to go to school. In 2012, due to her increasing publicity, the Taliban decided to assassinate Malala. She was shot in the head, neck, and shoulder by a Taliban gunman. She miraculously survived, but is now living England because of the violence still going on in Pakistan.

One of the reasons I chose Malala as my role model is because she shares many of the same values I have. Although Malala is Muslim and from Pakistan while I am Jewish and from America and Europe, we believe in the same equal rights for everyone and the right to a good education.

Another quality of Malala that inspires me is her determination. Malala’s dedication and determination to her cause is unbelievable. Even after getting shot she did not quit. Malala had a very difficult recovery, and it was a miracle that she survived. Now her life in England is very different than before she was shot, and yet she has been so determined to live a regular life, not restricted by her medical condition. While living in Europe, she continues pushing for a cause that is yet to be resolved, and she has made a big dent in the problem. She has met with Prime Ministers, Presidents, and even went on TV shows and interviews to speak up for this cause. Malala’s story spread like wildfire throughout the world and moved so many people. Today there is even a Malala fund which donates to benefit girls’ education.

Courage is usually a quality associated with being a hero. In the dictionary a hero is defined as a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities, “a war hero,” for example. I agree with this definition but I think a hero can also be so much more. Every hero has unique, individual qualities; it means something different for everyone. I think a hero is someone who shows bravery and selflessness through acts that benefit them and others. The fact that she was brave enough to stand up to the Taliban, let alone continue fighting for justice, is incredible.  I would like to think that I would have enough courage to stand up for my rights and others’ rights like Malala did and still does. So perhaps Malala is a hero as well as a role model. She has definitely accomplished heroic deeds and there are many people who look up to her.

Malala said, “I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not. It is the story of many girls.” I find that quote very inspirational. People often enjoy stories about someone with a unique life, a unique story, but what makes it even harder to imagine about Malala’s story is that it is not unique. Many girls all over the world have had that experience, and do not have access to an education, which gives us even more of a reason to stand with Malala.

In conclusion, Malala is my role model because she stood up for her rights and the rights of girls around the world when everybody else had been silenced by fear. Believing in equality for everyone, she understood the importance of her voice and used it to peacefully protest the actions of the Taliban. I hope that after listening to Malala’s influential story, more people are encouraged to speak out for their rights and the rights of others.