Gender Equality - Girls shot on school bus continue their fight for education

Malala Yousafzai and friend are reunited in UK after attack

The world reacted with horror when teenage education activist Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen on her school bus last year. A shooter opened fire on Malala, who was 14 at the time, after she had campaigned for more girls in Pakistan to be educated.

As Malala began a new life in the UK, the situation for two friends who were also injured in the attack remained dangerous. For their protection, soldiers were permanently posted outside the homes of Kainat Riaz and Shazia Ramzan (pictured, inset), who were sitting with Malala when she was shot.

The children have spoken of their ordeal in a documentary called Shot for Going to School, which aired on UK television channel BBC Three this week. It shows how widespread the violence directed towards schoolgirls now is in some parts of Pakistan.

The broadcast coincided with the reunion of Malala and Shazia, who met this week for the first time since the attack. Shazia has arrived in the UK after being given a scholarship to complete her studies.

The Taliban took control of the Swat valley, where the three girls lived, in 2007. They banned girls from attending school and began to destroy school buildings.

By the time the Pakistani army regained control of the area, hundreds of schools had been bombed. The attacks have now moved to other areas.

"This attack (on the school bus) happened all of a sudden. We were coming back home from school during exams. And on the way, two boys stopped our bus and asked, 'Which one of you is Malala?'," Kainat said in the documentary. Malala's friends looked at her, unwittingly identifying her.

"So he fired at her. I was sitting next to Malala, very close to her," Shazia said. "He fired at me, and Kainat was sitting next to me and she was also hit.

"No, we didn't think about how we felt, but when he pulled out the gun and started to shoot then I thought, 'This is it. Maybe we won't survive.' We were staring death in the face."

Shazia and Kainat said that they did not think about their own injuries. "We were concentrating on Malala; we were not concerned about whether we had been hit or not. She was crying and shouting," Shazia said.

"Then the driver came round the back and he saw that all three of us were injured. Malala was on the floor bleeding a lot, so he said he must take us directly to the emergency centre."

Kainat was shot in the neck and Shazia in the shoulder and hand. But the bullets did not hit any vital organs and they were sent home after treatment.

Malala was airlifted to England for life-saving hospital treatment; she has remained in the country. Soldiers were posted outside the homes of Shazia and Kainat.

"If the army wasn't there to protect us, we might not still be here," Shazia said.

After arriving in the UK this week, Shazia added: "I am so grateful for the opportunity to study here and try to become a doctor.

"It's so sad that there are millions of girls around the world in my situation. I want every girl to go to school."

Shot for Going to School is available on BBC iPlayer for viewers in the UK.

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