Malala Yousafzai sure has huevos (balls)! At age 11 she started blogging and speaking out against the denial of education to young girls in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, catching the attention of the Taliban.
On Oct. 9, 2012, a masked gunman jumped into a pickup truck taking girls home from school and shouted “who is Malala” before shooting her in the head.
Death seemed inevitable for Malala but she woke up a week later at a hospital in Birmingham, England, and gradually regained her sight and her voice. When she woke up her biggest concern was for two friends she was with who were also injured in the attack. “If I was shot that was fine for me but I was feeling guilty that they have been the target,” she said.
The world’s horrified reaction to the attack led to the creation of Malala Fund, which campaigns for girls’ education around the world. Malala has received multiple awards, including the $65,000 Sakharov Award, which she was awarded at exactly a year and a day after her attack.
photo credit: tribune.com
The assassination attempt drew worldwide attention to the struggle for women’s rights in Pakistan. Malala addressed the United Nations on her 16th birthday, and she expects to meet with Queen Elizabeth II later this month.
“They only shot a body but they cannot shoot my dreams,” says Malala when sharing her story. Malala recounted the moment she was shot while sitting in the back of a vehicle traveling home from school and reiterated that she was not intimidated by threats.
Today Mala continues to be a defiant 16-year-old Pakistani sharing her story around the world and still leading advocacy effort for education and speaking against forced marriages, the same reason that made her the target of a Taliban assassination attempt. She told an audience in New York she initially wanted to be a doctor but had learned she could help more people as prime minister; she hopes to become her country’s prime minister.
We can’t overlook the foundation of Malala’s bravery and struggle in pro of education, her father. Ziauddin Yousafzai is a human rights activist, the founder of an all-girls school in Pakistan and doesn’t regret how outspoken his precocious only daughter is.
photo credit: washingtonpost.com
Malala Yousafzai was awarded Europe’s top human rights prize and today she waits to know if she’ll be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for which she is considered a likely contender.
In interviews she’d said, “I’m never going to give up,” when asked about repeated death threats made against her by the Taliban. “I will never put my head into the yoke of slavery.”
She urges young girls in the developed parts of the world to take advantage of their education – and to do their homework and be kind to their teachers. She says, “I would like to tell all the girls: Realize its importance before it is snatched from you.”
Malala lives with her family in Birmingham, England. She said that while in Pakistan she liked to listen to Justin Beiber, but now longs for the Pashto music of her homeland.