Read Malala's story of being displaced and why she's making it the focus of her new book.
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3 January 2019 | Volume 1, Issue 13
  A note from Malala:
When I close my eyes and think of my childhood, I see pine forests and snow-capped mountains; I hear rushing rivers; I feel the calm beneath my feet. Swat Valley, once known as the Switzerland of the East, is the backdrop to all my happiest childhood memories — running in the streets with my classmates, listening to my mother chatting over afternoon tea in our home and my father discussing politics with friends.

That began to change in 2004. I was only 6 years old so I didn’t notice anything at first, but when I think back on those years, my memories are tinged with the fear that I know must have been growing in my parents’ eyes. And then five years later, my beloved Swat was no longer safe and we were forced from our home along with hundreds of thousands of others.

Today, there are more than 68.5 million people currently living as refugees or internally displaced people, their memories of home are also clouded by the reasons they had to flee. In my new book, “We Are Displaced,” I share my story of being displaced — and the stories of other girls who, just like me, were forced from their homes by conflict, poverty and discrimination.

This special issue of Assembly features displaced girls around the world. You will hear from young women like María from Colombia, who also appears in my book. When I met María a year ago, she told me about the guerilla fighters who killed her father over a land dispute — and how her family has been forced to move eight times since. Also in this issue, 14-year-old Rawan describes fleeing Syria to escape conflict and how her mother saved her from an unwanted marriage. And 14-year-old Aseel shares how she is speaking out for every Palestine refugee’s right to learn.

It is for María, Rawan, Aseel and the millions of other displaced girls that I wrote this book. And it is for them that I fight. Because every girl should live in a world where they can learn and lead without fear. Malala
Student essay
“I was 9 years old when a man decided he wanted to marry me.”
  By Rawan
After war broke out in her home in Syria, 14-year-old Rawan moved to Turkey with her mother and brothers. She writes about her mother’s bravery to save her from an unwanted marriage — and why she’s happy to be in school.

I was 9 years old when a man I did not know decided he wanted to marry me. I was with my mother at her job selling cosmetics when the man first saw me. This was six years ago when my family was still living in Aleppo, Syria.

Shortly after, I moved with my family to Turkey because of the war at home, but we had to return to Syria when we couldn’t pay the rent. That’s when my father disappeared. He left one day to look for a job and we have not seen him since. A year and a half ago, my mother, brothers and I came back to Turkey with my uncle.

Still, even in our new home, the man’s family found us and asked me to marry their son. My mother did not support the marriage. I was too young, she said. The man was 28, twice my age. She tried to reason with my grandfather and uncle. But they told her that I should marry that man and become a housewife. They forced me to wear a ring.

Read more.
Did you know? 

Displaced by Colombia’s civil war, María Ceballos Paz fights against racism and poverty to reclaim her future
  By María Rendo
When María Ceballos Paz thinks of her home in southwestern Colombia, she thinks of the sound of the sea and the smell of fruit on her family’s farm. But María hasn’t been home in 20 years — she is one of 7.3 million people displaced by Colombia’s civil war. For half a century, the conflict between the army, paramilitary, guerilla groups and drug cartels forced families like María’s from their homes.

María first fled after guerilla fighters killed her father over a land dispute with a neighbour. With her mom and siblings, she lived in tents made of plastic and wood — at one point, María shared two small bathrooms with 750 other people in an informal settlement. Discriminated against for their darker skin and rural accents, María and her family face difficulties wherever they move.

I spoke with María about her memories of home, the challenges of being displaced and what she hopes the government will do to support displaced people like her.

María Rendo (MR): Tell me what you remember about your family’s home in Iscuandé, Nariño, Colombia.
María Ceballos Paz (MCP): It smelled like sand and a mix of the fruits that were there in my house. You could hear the sound of the sea, because my house was very close to the river and the sound of the boats passing through. You could hear all the noise the kids made when they would go to bathe in the river.

MR: You were only 4 years old when your family was forced to leave from your home to flee north to the city of Cali. Do you remember the ten-hour boat ride? How did you feel that night?
MCP: I felt normal, because at the time, I didn’t know what was happening. I was just a bit unsettled because the boat was moving a lot so all the movement wasn’t letting me sleep well. But at the time, I didn’t really know why we were leaving so everything else felt normal.

MR: In your chapter in Malala’s book, you talk about how you and your family were discriminated against in Cali for your darker skin and rural accents. How did the locals treat you differently?
MCP: They tried to make me feel bad for the way I spoke and they made fun of my family, because we had a very thick accent. At school, they would bully me because of how I spoke and because my skin was much darker. There was always that discrimination and that’s why I would isolate myself from people. I couldn’t talk because I was afraid they’d make fun of the way I spoke.

They also discriminated against my mom so I felt like if they did that to both of us, I couldn’t feel safe. There were kids who would play with me, but they would make comments like, “Look, María talks all weird.” I’d cry and isolate myself. I’d make sure to be alone as much as possible and to not talk a lot so others wouldn’t make fun of me.

Read more.
Sound off!
“It’s a sad feeling knowing that the only thing you have is at risk. If the schools are closed, I won’t have anything in my life.”
— Aseel Soboh, Palestine refugee student
14-year-old Aseel currently lives in a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon. In August 2018, a major funding crisis put hundreds of schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) at risk of closing their doors — the current U.S. administration ended decades of financial support for UNRWA, leaving a $300 million funding gap.

As an UNRWA student parliamentarian, Aseel represents half a million Palestine refugee students who study in schools run by the U.N. agency. Aseel spoke before the 2018 U.N. General Assembly to tell world leaders about the challenges they face as refugee students and advocated for increased funding for Palestine refugee education.

Read more.
Get published in Assembly!
  Assembly publishes original work by girls, for girls. And we would love to include your voice! Send us your ideas and you could be featured in the next issue.
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