By- Angela Padrón
Malala Yousafzai is known for her activism around the world. Her mission is to make sure that all girls, despite their race or country of origin, receive a quality and equal education.
Malala was born on July 12, 1997 in Mingora, Pakistan, located in an area called Swat Valley. In Pakistan, schooling is traditionally only for males. Malala’s father Ziauddin, an educator, treated his daughter as an equal, however, and as Malala grew, so did her love for learning. Her father was determined that Malala would go to school.
In 2007, the Taliban took control of Malala’s hometown and banned television, playing music, and other forms of entertainment. Anyone who defied these orders was executed. In December of 2008, the Taliban banned all girls from attending school. In 2009, the Pakistani army fought the Taliban to drive them from Swat Valley. Malala and her family were among one million people who fled to other parts of the country.
Malala refused to stand for the Taliban’s rules, especially their insistence that girls not attend school. She started a blog for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) using the pen name “Gul Makai.” She told the world all about living under the rule of the Taliban and how her school was closed. Soon after, a reporter at the New York Times read her blog and created a documentary about Malala and her father’s lives and their desire to protect the girls’ education in their hometown.
The Taliban forces eventually lost strength in Swat Valley and were forced to leave, though they remained in the areas outside of Mingora, where Malala was born. In November 2011, Malala’s father reopened his school, and his daughter could attend once again. Later on, Malala won Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize for continuing to speak out on behalf of education for girls.
Malala’s outspokenness was not unnoticed by the Taliban, however. On October 9, 2012, a masked gunman shot Malala in the head, neck, and shoulder while she was on a bus to school. The gunman also injured two of Malala’s friends. Malala survived, but was in critical condition. She received treatment in the United Kingdom, undergoing several surgeries and a long period of rehabilitation. By January of 2013, Malala’s family had moved to the U.K., where she began to attend school again in March.
That same year, on her sixteenth birthday, Malala spoke at the United Nations. The U.N. declared that July 12th should be recognized as “Malala Day.” Malala wanted to spend this day each year doing something to benefit her educational cause. In October of 2013, Malala and her father created the Malala Fund to help girls around the world get an education. Malala began a global campaign, meeting with girls, as well as presidents and prime ministers from different countries, to spread her message.
But Malala was just getting started. She was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in December, 2014, becoming the youngest person ever to win this award. When Malala turned eighteen, she opened a school for Syrian refugee girls in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. In 2016, she began an online campaign called #YesALLGirls to promote worldwide education for girls.
Currently, Malala attends college at Oxford University and is studying philosophy, politics, and economics. Over the years, Malala has traveled to many countries to speak with girls about their educational stories and plights. She has heard about obstacles standing in the way of many girls’ access to education. Malala uses her voice to speak with heads of states around the world on the girls’ behalf to encourage governments to invest in education for girls in their countries. With Malala’s strong voice and determination, girls everywhere look to have a promising future and a chance at obtaining an education and a better life.
You Might Also Like: ¿Quién fue Amelia Earhart?