Updated: Oct 28, 2021
By: Elisabeth Mann
“Our men think earning money and ordering around others is where power lies. They don’t think power is in the hands of the woman, who takes care of everyone all day long, and gives birth to their children.” -Malala Yousafza
Malala Yousafzai was born on July 12, 1997, in the Swat District of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. She was born into a lower-middle-class family and is the daughter of Ziauddin Yousafzai and Tor Pekai Yousafzai. Her father is a poet and school owner who helped her become an educated woman. She attended the school her father administered and established. When the Taliban invaded the Swat District they began shutting down girls’ schools and banning women from being a part of society. Malala and her family fled when it became too dangerous, but returned when the violence ceased.
At a young age, Malala was interested in politics and education rights. According to Teen Vogue, Malala was eleven years old when she began blogging for BBC about her life living under occupation by the Taliban. Her blog began to gain attention and she started to make television appearances. Malala became a widely known young activist that spoke about women’s empowerment and education. The more attention she received, the more danger she faced. On October 9, 2012, Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman on her way home from school. According to Britannica, she survived the shooting and was flown to Birmingham, England for surgery. The shooting became known world-wide and created a mass outpouring of support for Malala and women’s education rights. Gordon Brown, the UN special envoy for global education, introduced a petition to have all children back in school. This petition paved the way for Pakistan’s Right to Education bill. Her incident also led to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari launching a 10 million dollar education fund.
Malala’s bravery and strength have inspired people all over the world and have encouraged people to stand up for what they believe in. She has been recognized for these achievements through winning multiple awards. According to TIME, in 2014, Malala won the Nobel Peace Prize “for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.” She was also named one of the Most Influential Teens of 2014 and 100 Most Influential People for her work in women’s rights and for starting the Malala Fund, which promotes education for young girls.
“Like millions around the world, I draw strength from brave Malala’s example… In the face of oppression and bitter injustice, she demands education and opportunity. IN the face of violence from the hands of cowards, she refuses to back down.” - Gabrielle Giffords
Malala is continuing to do activism work by speaking at universities, writing books, and meeting with political elites to discuss important issues. She has spoken in front of the United Nations and Queen Elizabeth. Malala has also spoken at Harvard University and Oxford Union. President Obama invited her to the White House and she was able to confront him about his use of drone strikes in Pakistan. On July 12, 2013, Malala spoke to the UN asking for worldwide access to education. The event was named “Malala Day” and was the first-ever youth takeover of the UN. In her speech she 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 ... I am not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I'm here to speak up for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists.” - Malala Yousafzai
Malala is an example of a selfless and powerful leader who is willing to die for what she believes in.
“Malala Yousafzai.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., www.britannica.com/biography/Malala-Yousafzai.
“Malala Yousafzai: See Some of Her Best Accomplishments.” Time, Time, 12 July 2016, time.com/4402630/malala-yousafzai-accomplishments/.
Mukhopadhyay, Samhita, and Photography by Delphine Diallo. “Malala on Education, Islamophobia, and the Power of Teen Girls' Anger.” Teen Vogue, www.teenvogue.com/story/malala-yousafzai-education-islamophobia-teen-girls.