Malala Yousafzhai’s autobiography was released this week, an especially fitting time ahead of Friday’s UN International Day of the Girl Child. Nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, Malala is the teenage Pakistani activist known for her courageous determination to attend school. Last year, a group of Taliban brutes stormed her school bus and, after calling out her name, they shot her in the head at point blank range. Miraculously, Malala survived, but around the world, so many more young girls will not survive, and though it may not be a bullet that will take them, the global neglect that will allow them to wither and die, is surely as deadly. At every stage of life, females are still at risk in places like Afghanistan and India, both of which were named among the “world’s most dangerous countrys [sic] in which to be born a woman.” And it is not just the lack of medical care and outrageously high maternal mortality rates that account for the challenges that confront women and girls, it is rape, persistent violence and neglect that will stalk them throughout their often short lives. In India, the UN estimates that girls are 75 % more likely than boys, to die before the age of five. . That statistic alone is proof enough that, at least in India, females are still considered as worthless as yesterday’s bread.
Women have changed the world, often one tiny step at a time, and our selection of those women who’ve had the most influence often varies with the years and with our own experiences. Twenty-five years ago, we might have chosen Margaret Thatcher, Princess Diana or maybe even Mary Tyler Moore, but our choices today would surely reflect the almost revolutionary changes in the world around us.
For as far back as I can remember, I’ve loved words. I love the sounds, the way a word can slip from my tongue like cool water thru a stream or the jagged way it might flow like rocks along a riverbed. I love the way a single word can change a story or a life for it is a well-chosen word that will stay with us forever, something I learned long ago.
It’s that season again — the season of graduation and change, the season of lofty dreams and loftier still commencement speeches. For most of us, the sweetest words we can hear at commencement are — “I’ll keep this short.” But, more often than not, the speeches are grand appeals to the graduates to reach for the stars, to find their special bliss, to write a bestseller, to change the world. And off we go only to be disappointed by the ordinariness of our lives. But it is that very ordinariness that we should embrace and even celebrate.
Monday, April 15th, the Patriots Day holiday in Boston, dawned clear and cool, a perfect spring day. The ER at the Boston Medical Center (BMC) hummed with activity – headaches, and chest pain and the wounds and complaints of everyday life. With Boston’s marathon winding down, ER staff were ready for runners with dehydration and sprains, and the rare cardiac arrest. An average day if ever there was one.
Wishes really can come true, and that is never more evident than in the season of Christmas, perhaps the sweetest season of the year. For so many of us, Christmas is a season of evocative scents – of cinnamon and pine trees and roasting chestnuts, and treats for our senses – a feast for our eyes in the dazzling lights and decorations, and for our ears – the sounds of children laughing, music playing, a hum of happiness that permeates the season. A holiday for dreaming and remembering…
Thanksgiving – my favorite holiday, a day devoted to food, family, friends and gratitude, a day that reminds me of just how much I have in life – my family and friends, my health, my job, the release of my second novel. I am lucky beyond words, and reflecting that, my list of thanks is endless.
Last week in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, a fourteen year old girl, was shot in the head by the Taliban, those evil purveyors of madness. They accused her of “promoting western culture,” which to the Taliban means not rock music or miniskirts, though they despise those things, but education. Malala was targeted only because she dared to stand up for a girl’s right to education.
Copyright © 2014 Roberta Gately