We often hear the term “change agent” tossed around in the realm of business. Fast Company magazine probably gave birth to this term during the tech boom in the late 90s. But there are few change agents in business that I can think of who have truly re-defined the way we live, with the exception of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. And even then, were they really revolutionaries? They were game changers, for sure, but did their accomplishments actually make the world better?
I think a real change agent is someone like 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who is willing to die for her cause of making education accessible to girls in an area of Pakistan that is under Taliban control. The only good that has come out of her shooting is the fact that there is much greater awareness globally of the dangerous conditions young girls have to endure just to enjoy what is a fundamental right in the Western world.
I can’t help but wonder: what is it in Malala’s genetic make-up that sets her apart from any other girl, from any other human being? To be so remarkably aware, and so determined to lead change at such a young age, and to put her own life at risk in what is a risky country everyday, is mind-blowing to me. Steve Jobs may have wanted to change the world, and his living dream – framed around a humanitarian cause – could have been to see an iPad or iPhone in the hands of every child in the developing world. But was he willing to die to make that dream come true? Malala says in an August interview with Black Box Sounds in Pakistan: “My purpose is to serve humanity and fight for their rights.” She’s fourteen! If that isn’t noble, I don’t know what is.
Malala’s father obviously played a significant role as a mentor – he owns and operates the school she attends and is equally active in promoting education for girls. That in and of itself is rather notable: a man in a man’s world refusing to follow the man’s way.
It’s one thing to say you want to create change. I think most of us would say we would like to affect some kind of good change in the world, whether it’s donating money to a cause, or organizing or participating in a fundraising event. That feels altogether inadequate when compared to what Malala has been trying to achieve these past years. I keep asking myself, “What has compelled her to do this?” Her DNA is not composed of any “selfish” genes, I’m sure of it. Although, is it? Ask her family, who are now all at risk of being hunted down and killed by the Taliban after Malala’s shooting.
I hope for a full recovery for Malala, so that she can keep the momentum going for her cause, and persuade Western countries to continue their efforts to eliminate the Taliban, but also to continue their financial support for education and schools for girls. Unfortunately, the latter probably can’t happen without the former, and it feels like we’ve been fighting the Taliban for far too long already…