A Long Way Gone, I am Malala, and Persepolis
Social Change in I Am Malala and A Long Way Gone
Maria Montessori once pointed out, “No social problem is as universal as the oppression of the child… Never were the rights of man ever so disregarded as in the case of the child” CITATION Mon70 p 5 l 2057 (Montessori 5). The United Nations indicates that children undergo inconceivable suffering in times of civil war. For instance, a report on the Syrian civil war mentions that the children have been subjected to sexual violence, loss of parents, recruitment into combat, closure of schools, and denied access to food and shelter. In this paper, I will discuss social change as it pertains to human rights and human development. Notably, I will talk about how children are affected by civil strife in the books I Am Malala and A Long Way Gone.
The authors of the two novels experience war and terror in two totally different settings. However, they go through these experiences as children and suffer detrimental effects of war regardless of their gender. In both cases, they are denied certain basic human rights that should be accessible to all children universally. Children have the right to live in a safe and protective environment, have access to adequate food and shelter, and receive adequate care and education. In I Am Malala, Malala reveals how the girl child is affected by war. In A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah, reveals how the boy child is affected by the war.
In I Am Malala, Yousafzai Malala is born in Pakistan, a country that has experienced a series of eras of political instability. Her father experiences a coup d’état aged eight-year-old when the Prime Minister is executed by General Zia-ul-Haq. In addition to political instability, growing up as a girl in Pakistan comes with its challenges. The major goal of most political regimes is to enforce Islamic principles. As such, girls do not enjoy equal rights as the boys. Malala narrates, “…as we got older the girls would be expected to stay inside. We’d be expected to cook and serve our brothers and fathers” CITATION You13 p 19 l 2057 (Yousafzai 19). Malala is born during a period of relative peace. She is able to go to school and play with her friends. However, the aftermath of September 11, New York bombings, and the arrival of the Taliban in Mingoria change everything. The Taliban preach religious intolerance and are against the education of the girl child because it is against the Quran. They use terror to send their message – sending jihadists to bomb schools for girls. As a result, most parents fear for the safety of their children and withdraw them from schools. Malala writes that by the end of 2008, 400 girl schools have been bombed. Another effect of war is that children lose their freedom to interact and have fun with their friends. When the Taliban arrive in Swat, they destroy the Buddha statues where Malala and her friends used to visit during school trips. They also switch off cable channels and Malala and Moniba cannot enjoy their favourite Bollywood show, Making Mischief. Children lose their lives in times of war. In 2006, an American drone hits Khar and kills eighty two people – majority are children. Amidst all these chaos, Malala comes out as a champion for the right of girls’ education. As a result, her school bus is attacked and she is shot together with two of her friends.
In A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah, grows up in Sierra Leone, and at twelve years of age, has never been affected by war. He writes, “The only wars I knew of were those that I had read about in books or seen in movies such as Rambo: First Blood…” CITATION Bea07 p 1 l 2057 (Beah 1). Even before his own experience, he is able to notice that the children arriving in their village as refugees are affected psychologically. He narrates, “They jumped at the sound of chopping wood or as tonnes landed on tin roofs…” CITATION Bea07 p 1 l 2057 (Beah 1). One of the most unimaginable effects of war is that children lose their parents in the chaos. Beah returns to Matru Jong as soon as he learns of the rebel’s attack but finds his family missing, and he’ll never see them again. Along with his friends, they flee to avoid the terror from the rebels and find themselves without shelter and food. At one point, they unremorsefully snatch corn from a small boy to feed themselves. Perhaps, the most inhumane effect the war has on young Beah occurs when he is recruited as a child soldier. The boys are brainwashed and given drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and ‘brown brown’ and sent to attack rebels and villages. With time, they become numb and live with the philosophy that “you kill or be killed.” The role of leaders is also brought out as we are informed that the boys are recruited and brainwashed by an army lieutenant. These are people charged with the responsibility of protecting children in times of war.
When we compare the theme of human rights and human development in both books, we find that war affects children regardless of their gender. Malala narrates that she fears she may not be able to continue with her education because of the Taliban. She indicates that the Taliban is killing girls and blowing up schools, and more girls are dropping out because they fear for their safety. Beah loses his family and friends when the rebels attack Matru Jong. He flees only to be recruited as a child soldier and brainwashed to kill and terrorize. Both books also indicate how people in power do little to restore peace and sanity, and fight for the rights of children. Malala notes that while the Prime Minister, Musharraf announces that he will cooperate with the U.S. to fight the Taliban, he uses the foreign aid to fund jihadists. Beah also informs us that he is recruited as a child soldier by an army lieutenant. These are people supposed to use their power to preach peace and protect children, yet they are seen to propagate war even further. The fact that Malala survives the bus attack and Beah can go through rehabilitation and reform show that children can triumph the effects of war if the right measures are taken.
The authors of I Am Malala and A Long Way Gone narrate the effects of war on children’s rights from two different settings. In the former book, the war is driven by religious intolerance and the belief that girls have no right to education. The Taliban blows up schools and attack school children to spread fear and intimidation. In the latter book, the war is driven by the fight for territories rich in diamond. The rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the national army of Sierra Leone fight to gain control of the country and its resources. In both settings, however; children lose their rights to a safe and protective environment, education, food and shelter. It is more saddening that these wars are propagated by people responsible for protecting the rights of children.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Beah, Ishmael. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. New York: Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. Print.
Montessori, Maria. The Child In The Family. Chicago: H. Regnery Co., 1970. Print.
Yousafzai, Malala. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2014. Print.
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