When a 14-year-old girl was shot in the head for claiming her birth right of acquiring education and standing against oppression, the gory incident was surely to hit Greg Mortenson like a Sky bolt who has now spent a good two decades of his life educating the young girls of the Central Asia.
Malala Yousafzai, a school girl from the restive Swat region, made the headlines some two years ago for having the courage to go to school in the midst of all the bombing and bloodshed in her otherwise picturesque town. She challenged the militants and the religious fanatics and shrugged off all threats to continue her education thereby inviting the wrath of the outlaw fanatics.
On October 9th, 2012, while on her way back from school, the school van was stopped by a handful of militants and they called out her name to shoot the poor girl in the head and injuring several others. Malala was severally wounded and is still fighting her battle for life.
“Our prayers are with Malala and her family,” Central Asia Institute co-founder Greg Mortenson said Sunday in a phone interview from Tajikistan. “Her story is heartbreaking. But it’s important to remember that Malala is just one of many. Scores of students and teachers risk their lives every day in support of girls’ education in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
Now being an active social reformer in the region, Mortenson knows the intricacies of the region, the cultural bindings and the religious complications all of which blend in to form a difficult social setup to penetrate within.
He is probably the most informed reformer who has managed to construct hundreds of schools and imparting education to thousands of girls and boys stretching from Badakhshan in Afghanistan to Turkmenistan and Baltistan in Pakistan.
“There are so many stories,” Mortenson said. “Girls attending classes are gassed and poisoned. Girls are attacked on their way to and from school. In Pakistan, militants destroyed 440 schools, including 130 all-girls’ schools, last year. In Afghanistan, several dozen teachers have been murdered for teaching at girls’ schools, including a teacher at the CAI school in Saw, in Kunar Province (Afghanistan), this past summer.”
Greg Mortenson and CAI have worked with communities in the mountainous, remote, and often war-wracked areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan since 1996 to establish over 300 educational and community support initiatives, including literacy centers, school buildings, vocational centers, scholarship programs, and public health (potable water, midwifery, and disaster-relief) initiatives.
Being the Co-Founder and caretaker of the CAI, Mortenson carries out whirlwind tours around the world and in the US to collect funds for his organization, giving out lectures narrating his own story.
CAI and Mortenson were recently acquitted in a lawsuit which claimed that Mortenson has usurped the donations amounting to millions of dollars. The court rejected the accusations and relieved the CAI from an 18-month-long gruesome battle of integrity.