Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School’s Julia Fine on Thursday won a CNN-sponsored essay contest about and judged by Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen who was shot by the Taliban for her advocacy on education and women’s rights.
Fine, 17, met Yousafzai, 16, in New York, where the Nobel Peace Prize nominee is making the rounds to promote her new book.
Fine is co-president of B-CC’s School Girls Unite club and co-editor of The Tattler, the school’s student newspaper. The Chevy Chase resident was one of hundreds who entered the essay contest, which asked the question: “What specifically has Malala done to inspire you?”
Four years ago, at the age of 11, Yousafzai began writing a blog for the BBC about life under Taliban control in a northwestern province of Pakistan. She wrote about education for girls, which the Taliban banned, and was the subject of a New York Times documentary.
On Oct. 9, 2012, Taliban gunmen attempted to assassinate her as she came home on a school bus. She survived gun shots to the head and neck.
In her essay, Fine touched on how education is taken for granted in the U.S. and how Yousafzai has motivated her to “continue my education so that I can fight for those who cannot.” The full essay is after the jump:
As a teenager, it’s easy to feel lost, to get swallowed up into the mob mentality and lose your voice. We’ve all been victim to that; anyone who says they haven’t is either lying or under the age of 13 years. And so when a teenage girl undertakes such an incredible task of courage, one adults cower in fear of doing, the event takes on utmost significance. This is exactly what Malala Yousafzai, a huge inspiration to me and so many other girls, did.
Malala stood up for herself, for her education and for her fundamental rights when confronted by a fearsome terrorist group. Malala has created a chain reaction all around the world, bringing change, light and hope to girls across all continents.
Being teenage girls in the United States, so many times, we forget the opportunities we have been given. We roll our eyes and joke about dropping out of school, a right we take for granted in this country. I don’t know if I speak for all girls when I say this, but I know for me that after hearing about Malala’s fight for education, I cannot take mine so lightly any longer.
I plan to continue my education so that I can fight for those who cannot. Malala has inspired me to study politics, gender studies, social justice and peace so that I am equipped with the tools I need to help others, the tools so many girls are not given.
But Malala has inspired more than just my own education; she has inspired my entire outlook and goals.
After I first learned of Malala, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. Yes, I was more serious about my education and understood its importance now, but I wanted to become an activist and do something. I became co-president of my school’s club School Girls Unite, a group that sponsors the education of 66 girls in Mali and lobbies Congress annually to increase foreign aid for education. I also became involved with the International Day of the Girl Child as the Day of the Girl U.S. youth outreach coordinator so I could speak to more girls about issues like education.
I have heard some people say that Malala is a mere poster child for Western ideals of education, but that could not be further from the truth; Malala is the hero who created the domino effect of change, bringing attention and empowering girls and boys alike to act on this issue.
It may sound corny, but I assure you that it is true: I believe that Malala has changed the course of my life, and I only hope that through activism around the world, other girls will have their lives changed as well.
Thank you, Malala. Thank you for your bravery, your passion and your heroism. You inspire me and so many other girls so much, and what you do is incredible. You go, girl!
Photo via CNN