The unspeakable violence wrought upon each of these two young women reverberated around the world. One simply wanted the right to go to school. The other simply wanted the right to be. Each collided with violent merchants of misogyny. Each barely survived, and had to be sent for advanced medical care outside her homeland. Their ordeals unleashed a torrent of disgust and protest within their respective nations. One young woman survived. The other, sadly, did not. Yet their individual struggles spread beyond borders to highlight the global struggle against female illiteracy and sexual violence.
On Oct. 9, 2012, then-15-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot pointblank by a Taliban gunman on her way to school. She, along with her father, had been campaigning courageously for girls’ education. Her dream was to become a doctor. The Taliban had demanded that girls should remain at home, subservient to males. Malala and her father had used the power of words to campaign for their cause. The Taliban, unable to convince people of the merits of female illiteracy, resorted to violence. Not only did they fail, but the attack galvanized the nation – and the world – to push further for the educational rights of girls.
Just two months after the attack on Malala, 23-year-old medical student Jyoti Singh Pandey was gang raped on a Delhi bus on her way home with a male friend after watching The Life of Pi. Her family was poor. They made financial sacrifices to help her pursue her dream of medical school. Jyoti worked night shifts, while studying, to help pay for her education. She wanted to build a hospital in her parents’ village to provide medical care where none existed.