The Song of Malala

To celebrate UN International Human Rights Day, December 10, I offer this poem, “The Song of Malala” for Malala Yousafzai and all she stands for.


The Song of Malala

Malala, your name sounds like a song
but it means grief-stricken in Pashto,
language of poets. She is named

after a poet, a warrior woman and
she has so lived up to her name.
Malala, Malala. I hear the ululation
of lament and of celebration for her.

Can you hear what she’s still crying?
Her father cries when Malala falls that
all Pakistan stood up. Now she too can
stand, what will Pakistan do? March on…

“Every girl in Swat is Malala. We will
educate ourselves. We will win. They
can’t defeat us,” states her classmate.

The courage it takes to cross borders
defined by others. Courage to uphold
freedom to read, learn, speak to be
the fully human that is our birthright.

Grief is no time for emotion. Let sky open
and open to more sky. Light, we call for
light to dispel the darkest oppression. Her
name on a million lips in many tongues.

Now it’s our turn to take up the call,
education for every child for which
women and girls still rally across
India, Pakistan and Afghanistan lands.

Malala, Malala, Malala. Hear the ululation
and the elation world-wide after she wins
the Nobel Peace Prize and still speaks out
for girls though there’s always more to do.

Malala, Malala. Let us hear the ululation
and respond. The women are calling  out.

Penn Kemp

“The Song of Malala” was published in The London Free Press on Thursday, December 10 and online,

Thanks to the Free Press for their support of poetry, education and human rights!

“Thank you Penn. That poem is a blessing.”  Shelagh Rogers

An earlier version of this poem was published in the anthology Malala See



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