“We are starving for education. For us it is like a precious gift, a diamond” – Malala Yousafzai
The story of Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakastani girl who was shot at point blank range in the head a year ago on a school bus by the Taliban has become one of the most powerful stories of our time. A girl of a mere 15 years old, who had the courage and bravery to stand up to the Taliban and risk her life for her simple belief that girls should be able to go to school, has captured worldwide attention to her cause. Today at 16 years old, Malala’s voice is being heard all over the world and people are listening.
Her voice and bravery has lead her to become the youngest ever nominated to receive a World Peace Prize and her fight for girls education has created an international global movement and a day named after her. In honor of “Day of the Girl” today, I wanted to talk about one girl who is by far one of the most amazing, inspiring young activists in the world. Malala whose life is a gift to the world and who proves that anyone can make a difference.
“People have prayed to God to spare me, and I was spared for a reason — to use my life for helping people” — from ” I Am Malala.”
Malala Yousafzai was born in the summer of 1997 in a remote beautiful part of Pakistan called the Swat Valley, near Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Once an idylic place surrounded by mountains and beauty, the Swat Valley had become a refuge for the Taliban who used their horrific violence and beliefs to crush its people.
Malala was born in a place in which women and girls have relatively few rights. However, Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai, a teacher, poet, and educational activist, knew the moment he saw his baby girl that she was special. As the man behind the Khushal Public School, Ziauddin taught girls to dream and he especially encouraged his young daughter to pursue her education and love of learning.
What is so amazing to me is the power of a young girl to use her voice to promote change and demand the right for the voiceless 33 million girls around the world who are denied an education. In early 2009 at the tender age of eleven, Malala began documenting her story in a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC detailing her life under Taliban rule, their attempts to take control of the valley, and her views on promoting education for girls. The blog was a huge success and prompted the world-leading New York Times to film a documentary about her life at a time when the Pakistani military was fighting with the Taliban over her home in the Swat Valley.
The brilliant 30-minute documentary offers an eye-opening look into Malala’s life at the tender age of eleven after the Taliban ruled that all schools for girls be closed. The film eerily foreshadows the rise of Malala as one of today’s leading advocates for human rights and girls education at a time before the world knew of her very existence.
Malala Yousafzai Story: The Pakistani Girl Shot in Taliban Attack
“They cannot stop me. I will get my education” – Malala
On that dreadful day, October 9, 2012, while Malala was riding in a school bus home from school, the Taliban struck and shot her point blank in the left side of her head. Her survival has been called a miracle and after months of recovering in the UK undergoing intensive rehabilitation, Malala was back stronger than ever promoting girls rights to education around the globe. Even against death threats by the Taliban, Malala’s voice is unwavering. She will not stop.
The assasination attempt fueled worldwide outrage and attention and Malala continued to rise as an advocate of hope and power for girls. Last year, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown launched a UN petition honoring Malala using the slogan “I am Malala“and demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015. Since then, Malala’s voice has continued to grow stronger. In April 2013 Malala was featured on the cover of Time magazine as one of “The 100 Most Influential People In The World” and shortly after Malala was nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. In July, Malala spoke at the UN to call for worldwide access to education, and her media coverage has continued to grow and inspire ever since.
But behind her story is often a story untold. The story of her devoted father Ziauddin Yousafzai who believed in her in a time and place in which many do not believe in the equal status of women and girls and their right to education. As a teacher and owner of Khushal Public School, an all girls school in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, Malala’s father saw promise and hope in his beloved daughter Malala. At 11 years old, Malala expressed her hope and dream of becoming a doctor yet her father had higher hopes for her. He believed she would become a politian and predicted she would change the world.
Fast forward, five years later at the age of 16 Malala is becoming a world icon and hero in promoting and advocacing girls right to education worldwide. Her father knew that Malala’s wings could not be clipped and he allowed her to soar. She and her father are an inspiration to us all that you can never stop fighting for your beliefs and your rights. Thank you Malala for all you have done for the millions of voiceless girls around the world who now have hope for a better future and life.
Below is the livestream video of Malals’s interview with her father at the 2013 Social Good Summit :