HomeHaddonfield NewsHMHS Student Makes Voice Heard, Wins Award

HMHS Student Makes Voice Heard, Wins Award

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Malala Yousafzai was born on July 12, 1997, in Mingora, Pakistan. Hamna Khalid was born on Jan. 1, 2000, in Lahore, Pakistan, raised in Prince Edward Island, Canada, and currently resides in Haddonfield. While these two women have carried on with the majority of their lives from half a world away, they share one important characteristic: their devotion to the educational rights of women.

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“While I have never been denied an education because of my gender, I do live in a world where much of the rhetoric is that I am less of a human being because of it, my race and my religion,” Khalid said.

During the past school year, her junior year at Haddonfield Memorial High School, Khalid saw the movie “He Named Me Malala” with the school’s 50/50 club. So inspired by the film, she subscribed to the Malala Fund mailing list by which she was sent the article in Yes! Magazine titled, “Standing With Malala: Meet the Teenagers Who Survived the Taliban and Kept Going to School.” Upon reading this piece, Khalid, the founder of the “No More” campaign at HMHS to end domestic violence and sexual assault, suggested she and her fellow club members reflect on their watching of “He Named Me Malala” by submitting entries to an essay contest the magazine was holding in response to its article.

“I could have been Malala. Had I been born a few hundred kilometers north of my birthplace, had my parents been different people, had I been given different luck, I could have been Malala,” Khalid wrote in her essay.

What she meant by this is — just as Yousafzai was shot traveling home from school on Oct. 9, 2012, in Pakistan for advocating for girls’ education — Khalid, too, could have been punished for her beliefs had she lived in a region less accepting of the educational rights of women.

“An education, something I take for granted, is a privilege in societies where there are so many obstacles threatening it. But despite the contrast, girls in Pakistan, or any other country in the world, are just like me,” she wrote.

The courage she exemplified by crafting a response to the magazine article in mid-February did not go unnoticed. Approximately four months later, Khalid was hand-delivered a letter of nomination for the 2016 Alvin R. Schomer Award by Carl Maugeri, chair of the Human Relations Commission. She has since been honored as the award winner for her work.

“We were very moved by [Khalid’s] essay and that’s why we nominated her and awarded her the honor,” Maugeri said. “In her essay, she really made an international story and the struggle for the equality of women in education relevant to everyday people.”

Named after Alvin R. Schomer, the first chairman of the Haddonfield Human Rights Commission, each year this award is presented to one local high school and middle school student who exhibit an understanding of the need to challenge prejudice and discrimination not only in the community, but throughout the world as well.

“[Khalid] could have been Malala, and yet she understands how important education is for everyone, requiring her courageous response,” Maugeri said. “She is very clear on how young people really do need to get involved in social justice.”


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