The cause of girls’ education in developing countries has received unprecedented
attention from international organizations, politicians, transnational corporations,
and the media in recent years. Much has been written about the ways in which
these seemingly emancipatory campaigns reproduce historical discourses that portray
women in former colonies as in need of rescue by the West. However, to date
little has been written about the ways in which young women’s and girls’ education
activists represent themselves. In this article I analyze I Am Malala, the autobiography
of Pakistani girls’ education activist Malala Yousafzai, written for her own
age group. Using a feminist, poststructuralist approach to discourse analysis, it
considers the way in which Yousafzai negotiates and challenges discourses around
young women, Pakistan, and Islam. I conclude that a truly emancipatory understanding
of girls’ rights would look not to the words and policies of powerful
organizations but, rather, to young women themselves.
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