A few months ago I read the book I am Malala, written by Malala Yousafzai herself. It moved me greatly, and has led me to think of her and others like her nearly everyday since. I myself am #strongerthan my circumstance. And I thank God for amazing people like her, who make a way for others and with every breath serve to inspire and fight for what is right.
Here is her story.
Malala was born (12 July 1997) in Mingora, the Swat District of north west Pakistan. She was named Malala, after Malalai, the famous Pashtun Heroine.
Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai is a poet, and runs a public school. He is a leading educational advocate himself. In 2009, Malala began writing an anonymous blog for the BBC expressing her views on education and life under the threat of the Taliban taking over her valley.
During this period, the Taliban’s military hold on the area intensified. As the Taliban took control of the area they issued edicts banning television, banning music, and banning women from going shopping and limiting women’s education.
A climate of fear prevailed and Malala and her father began to receive death threats for their outspoken views. As a consequence, Malala and her father began to fear for their safety. After the BBC blog ended, Malala was featured in a documentary made for The New York Times. She also received greater international coverage and was revealed as the author of the BBC blog.
In 2011, she received Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and she was nominated by Archbishop Desmond Tutu for the International Children’s Peace Prize. Her increased profile and strident criticism of the Taliban caused Taliban leaders to meet, and in 2012, they voted to kill her.
On 9 October, 2012, a masked gunman entered her school bus and asked for Malala by name.
Malala 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 shooting, but was in a critical condition.
She was later moved to Birmingham in the United Kingdom for further treatment at a specialist hospital for treating military injuries. She was discharged on January 3, 2013 and moved with her family to a temporary home in the West Midlands. It was a miracle she was alive.
Her assassination received worldwide condemnation and protests across Pakistan. Over 2 million people signed the Right to Education campaign. The petition helped lead to the ratification of Pakistan’s first right to education bill in Pakistan.
Ehsanullah Ehsan, chief spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that Yousafzai was a symbol of the infidels and obscenity. However, other Islamic clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwa against the Taliban leaders and said there was no religious justification for shooting a schoolgirl.
Her shooting, and her refusal to stand down from what she believed was right, brought to light the plight of millions of children around the world who are denied an education today.
Today, around the world, girls are denied a formal education because of social, economic, legal and political factors. And in being denied an education, society loses one of its greatest and most powerful resources.
Malala started the Malala Day 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.