Every time I see or read about Malala Yousafzai, I am overcome with emotion. The hairs on my arms stand up and there’s an indescribable electrical current that travels beneath my skin and releases itself in the form of tears. I marvel at how amazing, strong and determined she was and is at such a young age. I cry because she has endured levels of pain and adversity that I can not even begin to image. Not to mention she was shot in the head, nearly died, recovered and stood up for the very thing they tried to silence her permanently for. Something that here in the States many people take for granted. A basic education.
They say that things happen for a reason… And, as crazy as it sounds, it was her getting shot that magnified her propulsion to an even greater international platform. Today, Malala turns 19.
Malala was born on July 12, 1997 in Mingora, a town in the Swat District of north-west Pakistan. Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai named her after Malalai, a Pashtun heroine.
Ziauddin, who has always loved learning, ran a school in Swat adjacent to the family’s home. He was known as an advocate for education in Pakistan, which has the second highest number of out of school children in the world, and became an outspoken opponent of Taliban efforts to restrict education and stop girls from going to school.
2009 Becoming an Education Activist
Malala shared her father’s passion for learning and loved going to school. In 2009, as the Taliban’s military hold on Swat intensified, Malala began writing a blog for the BBC Urdu service under a pseudonym, about fears that her school would be attacked and the increasing military activity in Swat. Television and music were banned, women were prevented from going shopping and then Ziauddin was told that his school had to close.
Malala and her father received death threats but continued to speak out for the right to education. Around this time, Malala was featured in a documentary made for The New York Times and was revealed as the author of the BBC blog.
2011 Awarded Pakistan’s First National Youth Peace Prize
In 2011, she received Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and was nominated by Archbishop Desmond Tutu for the International Children’s Peace Prize. In response to her rising popularity and national recognition, Taliban leaders voted to kill her.
On October 9, 2012, as Malala and her friends were travelling home from school, a masked gunman entered their school bus and asked for Malala by name. She was shot with a single bullet which went through her head, neck and shoulder. Two of her friends were also injured in the attack.
Malala survived the initial attack, but was in a critical condition. She was moved to Birmingham in the United Kingdom for treatment at a hospital that specialises in military injuries. She was not discharged until January, 2013 by which time she had been joined by her family in the UK.
The Taliban’s attempt to kill Malala received worldwide condemnation and led to protests across Pakistan. In the weeks after the attack, over 2 million people signed a right to education petition, and the National Assembly swiftly ratified Pakistan’s first Right To Free and Compulsory Education Bill.
A GLOBAL ADVOCATE FOR GIRLS’ EDUCATION
2013 Establishing the Malala Fund
Malala became a global advocate for the millions of girls being denied a formal education because of social, economic, legal and political factors. In 2013, Malala and Ziauddin co-founded the Malala Fund to bring awareness to the social and economic impact of girls’ education and to empower girls to raise their voices, to unlock their potential and to demand change.
2014 Nobel Peace Prize
Malala accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 2014 with Indian children’s rights and education advocate Kailash Satyarthi. Malala contributed her $1.1 million prize money to financing the creation of a secondary school for girls in Pakistan.
Click here for more information about Malala and the great work that she’s doing to help get girls educated.