‘Knowledge is Bulletproof’: A bulletproof book for education

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Kainat Riaz, left, and Shazia Ramzan were shot alongside school friend Malala Yousafzai in 2012 by the Taliban. Though Malala’s story is known worldwide, the perspective of her classmates and friends who survived the shooting has seldom been reported on. The book "Knowledge is Bulletproof" will focus on their story. (Photo courtesy: Obaid Chinoy/Sanam Maher)
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A glance inside the 150-page novella written by journalist Sanam Maher. (Photo courtesy: Obaid Chinoy/Sanam Maher)
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The bulletproof books, the first of their kind, whose binding and story within are meant to be an impactful statement on education and the need to make it accessible to everyone, but particular girls in Pakistan’s Northern Areas. (Photo courtesy: Obaid Chinoy/Sanam Maher)
Updated 30 April 2018

‘Knowledge is Bulletproof’: A bulletproof book for education

  • Sanam Maher and Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s SOC Outreach teamed up to produce a one-of-a kind novella, “Knowledge is Bulletproof,” which tells the story of activists Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Riaz, who were shot alongside Malala Yousafzai but survived
  • The book is bound in bulletproof materials, a significant move by the producers

ISLAMABAD: “We are hoping to spread awareness of the importance of education, to inspire and motivate girls to go to school regardless of hurdles, to emphasize the strength of Pakistani women who choose education and to acknowledge the resilience of Pakistanis. Profits from book sales will go to charities benefiting girls’ education in Pakistan,” Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy told Arab News.
On World Book Day Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s SOC Outreach, a community engagement platform started by the award-winning director, announced they were releasing a novella written by Sanam Maher titled “Knowledge is Bulletproof,” and that the book would be bulletproof as well.
The 150-page story of Ramzan and Riaz, the other two schoolgirls who were shot alongside Malala Yousafzai and who today are tireless activists for education is bound in bulletproof materials, the first book of its kind.
Maher joined the project because of its unique premise and the story it promised to tell. This is the journalist’s first foray into book publishing, alongside her own first finished book.
“I got involved in the project when the artists behind it approached me with the idea. They had a very clear vision of what they hoped the campaign would achieve, and when they told me they wanted to work on something about the two girls who were also injured in the attack on Malala in 2012, I was immediately intrigued,” said Maher.
“I hadn’t seen much about the girls in the media -– even though, as I later discovered, they had been covered quite a bit in the British press -– and I relished the opportunity to tell their story. We have read and heard so much about Malala, and rightly so, but covering Shazia and Kainat’s story gave us the chance to look at Malala’s story from a slightly different perspective: these two girls were witnesses to an event that really brought home the brutality of the Pakistani Taliban to so many people, both within the country and abroad. I wondered what it would be like to be just slightly removed from the center of a story with such far-reaching interest and implications, just inches away from the girl we cannot stop looking at and wanting to know more about: Malala.”
The opportunity gave Maher the chance to meet the two attack survivors and understand the story known worldwide from their perspectives.
“I traveled to Mingora to meet Shazia and Kainat, and their families, with the photographer Insiya Syed. Shazia and Kainat were very keen to have their story told. We met them at a time that was stressful for them –- their visas to travel to the UK for further education had been rejected and they were waiting for word on their appeals -– but they were very generous with their time. Don’t worry, their story ultimately has a happy ending, and it was so moving to be there at a moment when their lives were going to change. I’m so excited for them to read the book and to hear their thoughts on it.”
In collaboration with BBDO (advertising agency) they plan to print a number of the books and have the proceeds of the sales go toward rebuilding schools in Northern Pakistan where areas were particularly affected by the presence of the Taliban.
“The initial thought was to tell the inspiring story of Shazia and Kainat, and how they braved it through the violence and continued to fight for girls’ education. The design of the book cover being bulletproof was a natural and relevant extension of the message ‘Knowledge is Bulletproof’,” said Chinoy.
“The goal was to be impactful not only with the story that had to be told, but also with the design of the book itself. It made perfect sense to use material that is symbolic of the brave resistance that the girls so admirably demonstrated. To show that knowledge is indeed bulletproof, it was thus ideal to design an actual bulletproof cover for the book,” said Maher.
This book will be the first of its kind, a novel encased in bulletproof materials to enable those reading it or encountering it to understand the message of the pages clearly.
“I thought it was a wonderfully impactful way to get people to sit up and take notice,” continues Maher. “Once you meet the girls, and so many other girls and women in Swat and other parts of the country who are all striving to complete their education despite the odds stacked against them, the message that the book’s design carries becomes even more important. The book’s design and the idea at its heart — it cannot and must not be enough for Pakistani women to rely on luck or chance or privilege in order to receive an education that will carry them forward — came together beautifully. It was a pleasure to be involved in a project where every element of the final product was so thoughtful and considered the nuances of Shazia and Kainat’s story.”
And though SOC Outreach, Chinoy and Maher hope the campaign and the book bring them results to continue their good work, there is also hope for Maher that these projects are needed less and less.
“I do hope that people will be interested in the campaign and there will be many, many more projects dealing with the subject of access to education, particularly for women in Pakistan. I also hope that there will be a time when the need for such projects will be obsolete.”

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