A Girl’s Pain, A Girl’s Worth

Written by Farai Chideya

My heart broke today when I read that fourteen year old student and activist Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan. She survived, but it’s hard to imagine that her life — already made difficult by the hateful reactions to her advocacy of girls’ education — can continue safely where she lives now. What will she do? Go abroad? Even to the capital city of Lahore? Even if her body is safe, will she feel safe in her spirit?

So many images flashed through my mind. The four little girls in Birmingham. The children and teens who marched in the Civil Rights movement. Child soldiers… not for blood but for justice.

And as I reflected on all these logical things, other images popped into my mind that surprised me. Miley Cyrus with what appear to be self-inflicted “cutting” wounds on her arm. A mainly-naked Lady GaGa, who sent pictures out to counter claims she’d gotten fat, but also reflect on her long history of bulimia. Trivial? Perhaps. But in a privileged country like the US, we don’t see girls shot in the head for wanting to go to school. We do see a lot of rage and fear turned inward.

Miley Cyrus

I’m not saying the struggles of a teen pop star are equivalent with the life-or-death struggles of Yousafzai. But what comes to mind is how to connect our lives in the U.S. to the struggles of girls everywhere. Would we turn in on ourselves if we were able to contextualize our privilege? I say this not in judgment of the teen stars. I was a teenage bulimic myself — overambitious, unsure of myself, sure only that if I was thinner I’d be happier. I grew out of it, or rather I taught myself other ways to deal with fear and performance anxiety. I just wonder, in a country where so many girls turn inward on themselves by cutting, starving, or other self-inflicted harms, how we can connect to the larger struggles for self-determination and independence.

Just musing. Just sad for not just this one girl in Pakistan, but her nation and our world. What do you think?

This post was originally published by Farai.com. It is republished with permission from the author.


Related Stories:

Women Banned from Universities in Iran

Why Is It Important to Celebrate Girls?

Woman Killed By Her Brother in Pakistani Courtroom


Photos from Farai.com


Wendy M.
Wendy M5 years ago

Very sad.

Elisabeth Kelly
Elisabeth Kelly5 years ago

I would warn you against the statement that self harm is not part of a 'larger struggle for self-determination and independence.' Personally, I have suffered from multiple types of self harm and it is certainly very much connected to those 'larger' struggles of mine. Struggling with whether I even want to live because I am so harshly judged, so put down, for so many aspects of myself, has come to the emergence of my depression, eating disorder, cutting, suicide attempts, and drug use, as well as my fervent activism. I am offended that they are so often seen as so very separate.

Hope Foley
Hope Foley5 years ago

Janet T... women did not run the world before the bible. In ancient Rome and Greece, the restrictions on women were akin to Sharia law. They were forced to cover themselves, stay in separate areas of the home and they were excluded from social outings, government and voting. They did not own property - they were property. There was no time that women ran the world. There were, however, many cultures whose people revered and honoured women and allowed them status equal to that of men.

janet T.
janet t5 years ago

This is the result of patriarchy. Men seem to like to control everything about women, especially if they believe that men should run the world. I think men and women were happier when women ran things, ie before the bible.

Sarah M.
Sarah M5 years ago

Terrible. Viva la mujer!

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

sexism is rampant. I deal with it at my job too, bc I am the only female security guard at my location.

Will Rogers
Will Rogers5 years ago

Let's just hope that some good comes out of this. This country and culture needs women heroes, like Malala and like Neda. In the late 1920's a suffragette threw herself under the kings horse at Ascot, England, the outrage this caused helped in securing the vote for women. As bad as it sounds...this incident may turn out to be a good thing for the girls of Pakistan. I hope they find the culprit and publicly torture him to death.

Ann L.
Ann L.5 years ago

The world loses 50% of its brainpower when girls and women are not afforded the same rights as men. We are all the same--we are farmers,artists,scientists,dreamers,writers. The strength and creative power of women is in their ability to give birth. The power of men is in their ability to care for the family. Neither man nor woman was created to wage war and destruction, abuse and neglect. Uh--we've really gotten away from the true human purpose. Still idealistic after all these years--- A comic said"There are really only 2 stories to be told--Adam and Eve ( love, family) and Cain and Able (war,violence)". As the world turns.....

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L5 years ago

When you have leaders in all walks of life telling you verbally and via their actions that you or your sister, mother or aunt are a second class citizen not worthy of the respect of men or the world as a whole, it gives one, at the very least, a pause to consider their worth, their value. Ms. Yousafzai has the courage to stand up and fight back and that scared the cowards so they tried to kill her and continue to say they will.

All females no matter their age must start fighting back and we can start by telling Ms. Yousafzai that we are with her. I suggest Care 2 give us an address where we can all send her a card of speedy recovery, congrats on her courage and avow our support.

Females must fight back no matter what country we are in; we MUST tell the world that we ARE NOT and WILL NOT ANY LONGER BE treated like second class citizens. We must STOP trying to use our femininity to get what we want and use our brains, courage and daring. I am NOT saying we shouldn’t be feminine, I am saying we can be feminine AND use our brains, courage and daring. Don’t let fear stop us, we are the ones who carry life, we are the nurturers and we are the true leaders and we must lead.

Samir Nassir
Past Member 5 years ago

Where there is underdevelopment and ignorance There is ignorance And suffering .I have suffered
very much to this Girl , but she deserve the appreciation .thanks for this article .