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Today, Remember Hurt Women Near and Far

Though violence lingers, we commemorate those acting to stop it

During supper one October evening while listening to the news on the radio, I suddenly put down my fork and gripped my 10-year-old son's arm. We listened intently to the broadcast. A Taliban gunman had shot 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the head while she was sitting with her classmates on a bus in Mingora, Pakistan. The Guardian reported that a Taliban spokesman characterized Malala's advocacy work for girls' education as an "obscenity" that had to be stopped. Malala and her family had been targeted because of the blog she had written for the BBC while she was in seventh grade chronicling the effects of Taliban repression in her region, including the burning of girls' schools.

"Why did they shoot her?" my son asked me, aghast. I attempted to explain the attitudes of religious extremists, their desire to maintain social, political and economic control and power by excluding women from education, employment, and equal participation in a community. I reminded him that many cultures throughout time believed women to be inferior to men, just as they believed that certain groups of people were inferior because of their race or nationality. But to him, discrimination and violence against women seem irrational and bizarre. In his mind, women and men -- girls and boys -- have always been equals.

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