The story of a Pakistani father and daughter who will be honored on May 13 by officials from the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum is one everyone should hear, particularly young girls, a museum executive said.
Human rights activist Ziauddin Yousafzai will accept the 2013 Reflections of Hope Award at a luncheon hosted at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Yousafzai will receive the award on behalf of himself and his daughter and fellow activist, Malala Yousafzai.
The family garnered international attention last October when a member of the Taliban shot Malala, 15, in the head at close range on a bus ride home from school. The Taliban targeted Malala for speaking out against the organization's efforts to ban girls from going to school in Pakistan. Her father, Ziauddin, founded and directs the Khushal Public School in Pakistan, an all-girls institution. He has also been involved with Swat Qaumi Jirga, an anti-Taliban council in the Swat Valley area of Pakistan.
Despite the assassination attempt, the family continues to advocate for the educational rights of girls and that makes them a natural fit for the Reflections of Hope Award that comes with a $25,000 gift to be used toward fighting terrorism, said Kari Watkins, Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum executive director.
“They represent hope in the midst of political violence,” Watkins said. “Malala has marched on. She has persevered. She literally stood in the face of terror and was able to bring hope to other girls who wanted to go to school, and she made that option available to them when many others said it was too dangerous or too scary.”
Watkins said she hopes several school-age girls will attend the luncheon to hear more about the story of Malala, who has regained her eyesight and ability to walk and talk since the shooting, and is now attending school in Birmingham, England. Malala will either send video remarks or join the luncheon through a live webcast.
“She represents all the things we would want to teach a young lady here in the United States,” Watkins said. “She demonstrates the importance of believing in something, taking a stand and being willing to be strong enough to keep moving forward. That's the kind of determination we want young ladies to see, and to realize the strength they can bring to the table.”
The education of girls is critical to the advancement of our global society, and Malala's story is one that can serve as an inspiration to all girls aspiring to achieve their personal goals through education, said Jill Irvine, head of the Women and Gender Studies Department at the University of Oklahoma. Irvine also teaches “Women and World Politics” and “Gender, War and Peace.”
“Not only is educating girls the right thing to do, but research shows that it is incredibly productive in terms of moving developing societies forward,” Irvine said. “It's not just girls that benefit from their education, but ultimately, everyone does. What's so lovely about the Yousafzais' story is that it is a family story. In this fight for equality, men are crucial, and it is important to remember the support Malala received from her family, particularly her father, which gave her a strong base from which to work and probably helps her to be so courageous.”
The luncheon will begin at 11:30 a.m. on May 13, and single tickets are $168. Ziauddin's appearance at the ceremony will represent his first trip to the United States since the Taliban's assassination attempt on Malala last year. For more information about the luncheon, visit http://oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org/roh.