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It Takes a Girl

Resistance is a girl.

She is Joan of Arc riding into battle in donated armour.

She is Anne Frank stubbornly clinging to normalcy in the pages of her diary.

She is Malala Yousafzai ignoring death threats to attend school.

When you want monumental change, sometimes it takes a girl.

"Which one of you is Malala?" a masked Taliban gunman reportedly shouted as he boarded her school van in Pakistan's Swat Valley. He shot her once in the head and once in the neck. Then we all knew her.

BBC blogger. Educational activist. Peace prize winner. Global icon.

She likes ice cream and computer games. She sometimes quarrels with her little brothers. She has two pet chickens. Before the Taliban imposed restrictions on cable television, her favorite show, according to journalists who wrote of her, loosely translated was "My dream boy will come to marry me."

Her parents named her after a woman warrior. Journalists filmed her walking to school with a blue and silver backpack, her painted red toenails peeking out from under her robes. She told them she fell asleep to bombs and dreamed of hiding her idealistic school owner father in a cupboard to protect him.

The Taliban wants her dead for "promoting Western culture." But what Malala wants isn't just a Western ideal. Education is a basic human right.

You can fight bigotry, misogyny and hate with guns and soldiers. Still, the most effective weapon against close-mindedness and intolerance is a well-educated army of children.

Last week, on the eve of the United Nations' International Day of the Girl Child, the attempted assassination of Malala was an attack on all girls around the world. I was in Miami, watching my two daughters run in the Junior Orange Bowl Cross Country Invitational two-mile race with about 130 other middle school girls. I grew teary-eyed as the crowd of confident young women took off at the gun, unaware of their good fortune and all the possibilities ahead.

And I mourned for girlhoods interrupted around the world.

When a New York Times filmmaker asked Malala in 2009 what she wanted to do with her life, the then-11-year-old hid her face in her hands and shook with emotion, overwhelmed at the thought of being more than a daughter, wife and mother.

At the time, she wanted to be a doctor. Later, influenced by her father, she aimed to be a politician.Today, as she fights for her life in an English hospital, I hope that in her dreams Malala realizes that what she has become is so much more: A hero who has claimed our collective hearts.

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