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Photo by: Jessica Mouton
April 3, 2018
We often forget that others have to fight in order to get an education since we live in a country where it is required by law that all children attend school.
It’s amazing how there are individuals who, even at a young age, know how to fight for their beliefs and protect others who are rightfully afraid of the consequences.
Imagine living in constant fear of being denied basic education and being punished with death if you receive such an education. That was the life of Malala Yousafzai, who lived in the Taliban-ruled town of Mingora, Pakistan.
Malala recently visited her hometown for the first time in five years since the attempt on her life, and I think it’s appropriate to remind the world of who she is. The University of Oxford student has traveled the world fighting for female education and started the #YesAllGirls campaign (Malala.org).
Malala was born on July 12, 1997 and is the daughter of Ziauddin Yousafzai, an educator. She attended the school her father founded, but everything changed when the Taliban took over the Swat Valley in 2007 (Malala.org).
In 2007, Taliban militants banned the owning and use of televisions and playing music. In December of the following year, those same militants banned girls from attending school, which went into effect on January 2009. They soon began shutting down and blowing up all girls’ schools throughout Swat Valley.
We’re glued to our televisions, phones and music, so being forbidden to use such devices would be difficult to accept. In 2009 northwest Pakistan, failure to follow these orders would lead to your death.
Malala and Ziauddin were strong advocates for education and protested the Taliban’s closing of schools. Malala’s stance on girls’ education quickly spread throughout her country and she quickly gained the attention of national and international journalists.
On Jan. 3, 2009, Malala began blogging for BBC Urdu, under the pseudonym Gul Makai. It was there that Malala wrote about the fear of being killed for going to school and the fear of not getting an education (BBC).
For the next couple of years, Malala continued to advocate for girls’ education and eventually came under scrutiny of the Taliban.
Malala was on her way home from school when, on Oct. 9, 2012, a masked Taliban militant entered her school bus and shot her in the head. The Taliban targeted Malala, a 15-year old girl, because she was “promoting secular education” (BBC).
A death threat from the Taliban and a bullet to the head was not enough to stop Malala. She received medical attention at a Pakistani military hospital and rehabilitation in the United Kingdom. The bullet hit the left side of her head and travelled into her left shoulder (BBC).
After her traumatic experience, 2013 was a great year for Malala. She was nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, gave a United Nations speech, began the Malala Fund with her father and published her book “I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.”
In her 2013 United Nations speech, nine months after an assassination attempt by the Taliban, Malala said, “the terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born” (Biography.com).
Although she wasn’t awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013, she was nominated again and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2014. Malala became the youngest person ever to win the prize (Britannica).
Despite Malala’s long fight for girls’ education, people in Pakistan’s conservative society view Malala as a Western World pawn (New York Times). She doesn’t let the negativity affect her love for her culture and people, but unfortunately the Taliban still considers Malala a target. Regardless, Malala continues her advocacy for girls’ education and dreams of one day permanently returning to Mingora (Biography.com).
Basically, what I’m trying to say is no one is too young or too old to fight for his or her beliefs. Malala’s fight for girls’ education is unbelievable and inspiring. From such a young age, she risked her life for the wellbeing of others. Malala is living proof that nothing is impossible. She is Malala Yousafzai, a children and women’s rights activist.