Malala, we’ve all heard her story (or at least we’ve all heard her name). But what exactly did she do, what is she doing now and how is Malala an inspiration for thousands of teenagers everywhere.
Malala Yousafzai was born in Pakistan, Mingora, in 1997. Her father was a teacher and ran a girls school in her village. She absolutely loved school, taking after her father’s passion for education. But in 2007, when Malala was 10 years old, the Taliban (an extreme Islamic group) took control of her village in Swat Valley.
These Taliban extremists enforced their own rules across the whole Swat Valley, ranging from the banning of television to playing music. They banned girls from going to school, determined to deprive them of their education. By the end of 2008 the Taliban had destroyed around 400 schools.
Malala began a public campaign to gain worldwide recognition about the dire situation in Swat Valley. She started off by writing to the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), describing all about what her life had become since the rule of the Taliban.
On the 25th of February 2009, the Taliban lifted restrictions on girls’ primary education, so girls could attend co-ed primary schools (all girls schools were still banned).
Over the next few years, both Malala and her father gained more and more publicity throughout Pakistan and the world. In 2011, Malala’s writing was well known worldwide, as she spoke out publicly on behalf of girls and their right to learn. Because of her activism, she was awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize and was also nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize.
However, this activism also put a tremendous target on Malala’s head. Malala and her family learnt that the Taliban had issued a death threat against her, but they didn’t think that the Taliban would go so far as to harm a child.
But they were wrong.
On the 9th of October, 2012 Malala was on the bus, coming home from school with her friends, when a Taliban shooter boarded the bus and demanded to know which girl was Malala. Upon identifying her, he shot her on the left side of the head.
This left Malala in a critical condition, where she was first flown to a military hospital in Peshawar, then transferred to Birmingham England.
Ten days later, she woke up in the intensive care unit of the hospital. She had been woken up from a medically induced coma, yet still needed multiple surgeries, but luckily hadn’t suffered any serious brain damage.
After months and months of recovery and rehabilitation, in 2013 Malala joined the rest of her family in their new home in Birmingham, and started attending school as well. The news of Malala’s incredible recovery sparked world wide recognition.
“It was then I knew I had a choice: I could live a quiet life or I could make the most of this new life I had been given. I 'm determined to continue my fight until every girl could go to school.”- Malala (Malala Fund)
Malala began to spread her story all over the world, beginning on her 16th birthday when she gave a speech to the United Nations in New York and continued to campaign for girls’ education. For her work, she received the prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
In 2014, Malala and her father created an organisation called “Malala Fund”. Through their organisation, that year she travelled to Jordan, Kenya and Nigeria, meeting with many people in desperate situations and helping out wherever she could.
In recognition of all her work, Malala was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, when she was only 17 years old, becoming the youngest recipient. In July 2015, with support from the Malala Fund, she opened a girls’ school in Lebanon for refugees from the Syrian Civil War.
Today, Malala is studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford. And of course, she hasn’t stopped fighting for girls’ education as well as several other human rights issues. She regularly travels to numerous countries, meeting with girls fighting poverty, wars, child marriage and gender discrimination.
Malala is an amazing young woman, who has helped so many people all around the world. Her modesty, determination and strength is inspiring.
“As far as I know, I am just a committed and even stubborn person who wants to see every child getting quality education, who wants to see women having equal rights and who wants peace in every corner of the world”
One of Malala’s more recent campaigns called on world leaders to invest in books, not bullets and stressed to them the importance of an education for young children.
“Leaders of the 21st century must deliver on their promises to invest in the future and start investing in books, education and hope, rather than in weapons, war and conflicts,” Malala said. “We will not stop. We will continue to speak out and raise our voices until we see every child in school.”
In Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize speech she called us all to action. I’d like to show you all this call to action. After you read it, I want you to remember it and to act for the safety, education and rights of all children around the world. Something as simple as teaching yourself about the struggle for girls to receive education in countries like Nigeria can go a long way. Something as simple as learning about the industries which use child slavery and trying to avoid purchasing their items. Remind yourself constantly of how fortunate you are. And make a promise to rise up to Malala’s call for action, in any way you can.
“So let us bring equality, justice and peace for all. Not just the politicians and the world leaders, we all need to contribute. Me. You. It is our duty.
So we must work ... and not wait.
I call upon my fellow children to stand up around the world.
Dear sisters and brothers, let us become the first generation to decide to be the last.
The empty classrooms, the lost childhoods, wasted potential-let these things end with us.
Let this be the last time that a boy or a girl spends their childhood in a factory.
Let this be the last time that a girl gets forced into early child marriage.
Let this be the last time that an innocent child loses their life in war.
Let this be the last time that a classroom remains empty.
Let this be the last time that a girl is told education is a crime and not a right.
Let this be the last time that a child remains out of school.
Let us begin this ending.
Let this end with us.
And let us build a better future right here, right now.”
*Cover Photo by Southbank Centre (CC BY 2.0)