The Pen is Mightier than the Sword

“Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow. Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human.” – Malala Yousafzai

Ask any social scientist how to end global poverty and they would say educate girls. Give them education and watch a community change. Nowhere is that lesson more evident than the story of Malala Yousafzai, a Pashtun girl from Pakistan’s Swat Valley who was born of an illiterate mother, grew up in her father’s school and read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time by age 11.

Malala Yousafzai’s fearless memoir, co-written with Christina Lamb a veteran British journalist provides a good starting point for learning about the complexities of women’s rights in some countries and education access.


One such example is the development of university-level curriculum by George Washington University and the Global Women’s Institute based upon I Am Malala. The tools focus on themes such as political extremism and youth advocacy – depicting how education empowers women. One of the goals of this program is to encourage students to get involved by facilitating dialogues and to influence public opinion towards women’s empowerment and education.

But elsewhere in the world, strings of school attacks in Nigeria that were perpetrated by radical Islamist organization Boko Haram have emerged in recent years for the same reason – the view that Western education is a sin. According to a UNESCO publication by Brendan O’Malley, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Taliban are against girls’ education and they have warned against providing classes for girls. If any girl came out of home to attend school, she would be attacked like the girls in Afghanistan (O’Malley, 2010, p.79).

In the case of the Taliban, they had banned female education in the name of religion, but interestingly there is no such command in Islam, which is against education or female education. In fact they follow a traditional patriarchal ideology (Ahmad, 2012, p.43).

However, many believe that the reason why these radical groups are against education is not only based on the hatred towards the West. Instead they are afraid of the power of critical thinking that can be flourished through education. The argument follows that radicalism starts from the lack of education, which then leads to lack of critical thinking. These skills are especially important in an age where even the most irresponsible information can be disseminated freely. 

In the Western culture, it is unthinkable that women be excluded from education. Malala and her story are symbolic of that education freedom. The book delivers a message to the world to look deeper and examine the role of education, its purpose and function within a society.

Malala Yousafzai who has become an influential figure of this generation has shown that girls are truly a nation’s greatest assets. Education does truly empower. Whether an emerging nation likes it or not, its girls can be its greatest weapon. Educating them, as economist Lawrence Summers once said, “may be the single highest-return investment available in the developing world.”

I Am Malala

The Girl Who Stood Up for Education

and Was Shot by the Taliban.

Little, Brown and Company, 2013, 327 pages, $26


O ́Malley, Brendan (2010) ‘Education under attack.’
Available at:

IRIN (2011) ‘Analysis: Girls’ education in Afghanistan – a new beginning?’

Available at:

Shehzad, Saleem (2009) ‘Taliban ideology echoes in the valley.’ Asia Times. Available at:

Ahmad, Shakil (2012) ‘The Taliban Education and Girls’ Education in Pakistan and Afghanistan: A case study of the situation in the Swat District. Lund University: Department of Sociology

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Author Bio:

"Hi, I'm Rev, 24 years old and a Master's student at Murdoch University, Western Australia. My hobbies include writing and baking of all sorts! Education has always played an important role in my life and B.O.B works towards that same goal of raising awareness and funds for the education of children in refugee camps. You get to work alongside selfless people that share the same perspective.