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Aanya Niaz Headshot

The Grand White Savior vs. Poor Native Girl Syndrome

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There's so much fussy fuss around Malala. I'm not talking about the good-natured kind, or the saving kind, but rather Pakistanis themselves bashing the Western world for stepping in and turning themselves into heroes. There is no doubt her trials and tribulations have been of immense tragedy, shooting a young girl in her head for her education rights is just damn wrong. But what's missing is this piece: Why isn't the Pakistani government or even leadership taking a stance and speaking out for her as much as the West is? Yes, it's the typical let's save the native girl from her harrowing reality of being surrounded by illiterate and destructive men; let's sweep her away to the UK and provide her with the security and access to education she deserves. But perhaps it has to do with how we, Pakistanis, have not been able to provide that platform to her and the trillion other Malalas that exist not only in the Swat Valley, but even in urban cities of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Palestine and the list goes on.

I recognize it is difficult for us to be labeled as "backward" and most of all, as victims of a society that strips women of their basic rights: but if someone has offered to save a case and shed light upon a most devastating reality, why are we punishing them and not ourselves -- When it was us, we, the Pakistanis, who, again, failed to provide her with the security she deserves. This doesn't mean every time tragedy strikes, we await the arrival of the Grand White Savior to sweep her off her feet in a helicopter, landing on a most serene helipad and offering her a bed of roses. Rather, is it not time to stop victimizing ourselves further and take her story to stand for something that is larger than our self-pitying mentalities? Rather than bashing the "developed" world's efforts, albeit nuanced in its innocent helpfulness, perhaps we can turn this into an opportunity to point towards the million other Malalas and ask the UN, the elected peace-keeping force to finally invest in something other than plain-yogurt foreign aid? Why can't we build a platform from Malala's journey, her media appraisal and the accolades she has been awarded for her bravery, courage and most of all, beautifully articulate and bold statements. For once, let's not stab ourselves in the foot and say to the world, you found one Malala, we have thousands more with potential to change the paradigm of education in Pakistan.

See, the glass can't always be half-empty; even in a twisted, morose, yet rapidly modernizing Pakistan. The two dramatically different worlds that exist in Pakistan: that of the upper-middle class, less than 2 percent of the population, and that of the rest of the 180 million people can come together to recognize the world's efforts (again, with their own prerogatives) as a way for us to press forward, and hold our leadership accountable. We'll only continue to waste time by blaming the 'outsiders' who pretend to know our nation -- rather, teach them that we, too, and in a better way, can save our own peoples lives.