Malala Yousafzai has said: “I raise up my voice not so I can shout, but so those without a voice can be heard.”
Do you know Malala’s story?
Malala was born in Pakistan. When she was 15 in October 2012, the Taliban tried to silence her by shooting her in the head. They did this because she attended school, she urged young women to go to school, and she had begun to influence people to do more for girls and young women. Malala survived the assault with the expertise of medical professionals in Great Britain and her family who moved there to support her and escape the death threats against them.
Malala resumed her outspoken advocacy for young women’s rights around the world to become educated, make life choices that benefit themselves, and their families, and live in peace. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 and donated her $500,000 cash award to create a secondary school for girls in Pakistan. This picture of her new book co-authored with Christina Lamb might inspire you.
To encourage young women everywhere to speak up to right injustice and inequality, Zonta International established the Young Women Public Affairs Award in 1995 to recognize “young women, ages 16-19, who demonstrate superior leadership skills and a commitment to public service and civic causes, and encourages them to continue their participation in public and political life.”
Our Club was delighted to honor two local young women who are using their voices as Malala does to make the world a better place.
Fairl Thomas has been a long-time volunteer for Wildlife Haven Rehab and the Mattie Williams Neighborhood Family Center as she completed Countryside high school this year. At the Wildlife Haven, she gave many hours to help care for injured and orphaned wildlife, including raccoons, birds, squirrels, and opossums. Marilyn Waldorf at the Wildlife Haven noted how Fairl quickly grasped the complex dietary requirements of wild animals and noticed when animals were suffering and needed specialized help. Waldorf called Fairl a “passionate volunteer who took on all responsibilities, even the deep cleaning of cages which most volunteers avoid.”
Fairl testified before the Safety Harbor City Commission to urge the members’ adoption of an anti-bear hunting resolution in 2016, part of a statewide push by citizen advocates to influence local and state policy making officials to forego a bear hunt in 2017. In 2015, a state sanctioned bear hunt resulted in the deaths of 307 bears, including 28 lactating mothers. The statewide pressure caused the State Fish and Wildlife Conservation(!) Commission to back down from approving a bear hunt in 2017.
Janet Hooper, Executive Director of the Mattie Williams Center, commended Fairl as a “young woman of excellent character with a strong sense of community service.” Fairl helped the Williams center set up and serve annual Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, stuff children’s backpacks with school supplies at back to school events, and carry out Toys and Joys fundraisers and Pet Food Donation Projects, among other community-building efforts.
Fairl heads with a scholarship to Eckerd College this summer to study environmental science and eventually work in government sponsored environmental research projects. Fairl was joined at our awards ceremony by her mother Terry and father Chip.
Our second honoree is Kiersten Maricle, also a graduate of Countryside high school, who will enter USF in the Fall. Kiersten received the Young Women Public Affairs award for her service as Senior Class Secretary, Editor-in-Chief for the school newspaper, and funding lead for the annual Relay for Life, a fundraiser for cancer victims. Kiersten also volunteers at local middle schools, helping them set up for the start of the new school year and host National History Day.
Kiersten, described by family friend Dawn Shireman, as a “natural born leader and motivator always bringing positive energy into the room,” plans to study anthropology at USF to better understand cultures and the evolution of our society. She will use her growing understanding to volunteer with a local police/crime lab to solve long-standing cases.
Kiersten brought her cheering section–grandparents Claudia and Bill, her mother Jennifer and sister Madison–to the awards dinner.
REMEMBER: EVERY VOICE MATTERS. Each voice can influence decision-makers to do what’s right for our communities. Zonta empowers women to represent their own interests and support families, elders, children and animals–both domestic and wild. Therefore, let your voice soar, as Malala, Fairl, and Kiersten are doing to make our world kinder, more respectful, inclusive, peaceful, and sustainable. Join Zonta to increase your impact!
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Views expressed in this blog post are mine and may not reflect the stance of the Zonta Club of Pinellas County or Zonta International. — Doris Reeves-Lipscomb