Whoever says that one person’s voice doesn’t count has never heard of Malala Yousafzai. Champion of education for girls, Malala followed in the footsteps of her namesake Malalai of Maiwand who was a famous poetess and warrior. Educated by her father, Malala showed a very quick mind and an active interest in politics, even at a very young age.
Surrounded by education through a chain of schools run by her family, Malala was convinced that both boys and girls needed to be educated. However, in her local Pakhtunkhwa province of northwest Pakistan, under Taliban control, girls were banned from going to school. She felt the strong injustice of this and began to openly speak out against it. At the tender age of just 11 years, she began to write a blog under a fake name for the BBC going into details about what her life was like under Taliban control. Girls were not only banned from school, but from music, television and going shopping. Her and her father knew that to do this would incite the anger of the Taliban, but they felt the outside world needed to know what was going on in their province.
About a year after she started her blog, Adam B. Ellick, a New York Times journalist, made a documentary about her life in Pakistan. It was at this time when Pakistani military interceded and regained partial control of Pakistan. It was because of this documentary that Malala came to the world’s notice and she was asked to give interviews both in print and on television. She was the first girl to be nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize, one of many awards and honors she received over the next few years.
Her political activism angered the Taliban and at the age of 15, an attempt on her life was made as she boarded the bus for school. The gunman asked for her by name and then fired three shots at her. One of the bullets hit the left side of Malala’s forehead, traveling to her shoulder underneath the skin. She was in critical condition in the hospital for several days and then moved to Birmingham, England for rehabilitation. Due to continued threats on her life, Malala and her family still reside in England.
The assassination attempt on her life infuriated the world and she began to see an outpouring of international support. The incident sparked a movement and the UN Special Envoy for Global Education was created which states it is now mandatory that all children worldwide be in school by 2015. The first ever “Right to Education Bill in Pakistan” was created due mainly to her efforts. In 2013, she was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” and in 2014 at the age of 17, the world honored Malala when she was the youngest person to ever receive the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.
Now at the age of 18, Malala continues in her fights to change the world through education for women and rights for children. In a speech to the UN on July 12, 2013, Malala stated “The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.” One young voice stood up to fear and terror and found the strength to change the world for the better. What an incredible example Malala is of what one person can do!
Photo by: Christopher Thomond via www.theguardian.com