5 Notebooks: One Woman's Fight for Education

A couple of weeks ago we had movie night at the house. By popular demanded we watched “He Named Me Malala”, a documentary about Malala Yusefzai, the young girl that captivated the world after she was shot by the Taliban for encouraging women and girls to get an education. It turned out to be an informative and interesting documentary, everyone was captivated even though English wasn’t the first language of the majority.

But as the movie progressed and more details about the shooting and her studies now, I could sense one of the residents was quite upset. I asked if she wanted to watch something else instead, but she said no, she actually found this very interesting. Once the movie was over, we were all quiet, letting it sink in. I turned to the resident to see how she was doing and could tell she wasn’t herself. She looked paler than usual, she wasn’t talking or smiling as usual, she wouldn’t look up; her eyes were fixed on something on the ground. I asked her again if she was ok. With tears in her eyes she looked at me and said, “this almost happened to me. Malala and I are lucky. We were able to get out, but all I can think of are the girls still stuck in this situation, but no one is paying them any attention.” 

Hannah, our resident, was also almost killed because of her commitment to get an education. 

In her tight-knit village, women didn’t get an education. They got married and had children. She would sneak out to go to school and then university. After class she would go to a grocery store where she worked to pay for school. Some days she would go work at a farm. “I have no idea how I had the courage to do what I did. But I saw how miserable my sisters, cousins and other women were. Almost all of them were married to abusive husbands, or husbands with drug or alcohol addictions. They were living in constant worry. That wasn’t a life to me. My mother, sisters and one of my brothers supported me, encouraged me and enabled me. They helped me sneak in and out, covered for me and even helped pay for my studies.” 

One day, on her way back home from work, her younger brother, the same one that helped her earlier, tried to kill her. The reason she is alive today is only because he panicked for a split second and she ran. “They brainwashed him, blackmailed him and tricked him.”

That split second almost cost him his life because the men of the tribe turned on him. They knew he was sympathetic to me and thought he did this on purpose. He was shot in the head several days later, and although he survived he was never the same. “I lost my brother that day.”

She went to the police who took her to a nearby shelter. “The shelter was a big house with a garden and a thick concrete fence surrounding it. For the first couple of months I wasn’t allowed to go beyond the fence. Eventually they let me start working in the doctors office that was literally across the street.

This continued for a couple of months until the police informed us that there was word they knew I was at the shelter and would be trying to get me or kill me any day now. Within hours they had me transported in a big police SUV with tinted windows to another shelter in the capital. At this point we knew I had to leave the country because they would find me. So we got in touch with a shelter here in Canada and I left behind my mother, my sisters, my family, friends, degree and everything. But I’m still scared they’ll find me.”

I wondered how it was acceptable for her family to do this, how the police didn’t intervene or how no one did anything!

“My tribe and family are very well known back home. Even the police are afraid of them. No one can interfere in their affairs. They run the weapons and drug cartel in my country. I just wish I could do what Malala did and share my story to help the other girls from my tribe that weren’t as fortunate as me and are still stuck there. InshAllah one day I’ll share my story.”

For now, Hannah has found a new place and is writing her story. So far she’s filled five notebooks but her story isn’t over yet.