“She can see the power of her voice way beyond herself.”
The story of Malala Yousafzai has been all over the news for years now, ever since she first became known in early 2009 for campaigning for education for all Pakistani girls.
Who is Malala Yousafzai?
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani school girl and education activist from the Swat District of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Since she was young, she has been actively working towards education for all Pakistani girls. Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, is a poet, school owner, and an educational activist himself, and contributed towards much of his daughter’s early education and viewpoint, and it was he who encouraged her to become a politician.
In early 2009 she wrote under a pseudonym for the BBC about her life under Taliban rule, their attempts to take over the valley she lived, and her thoughts on education for all girls.
“We had been covering the violence and politics in Swat in detail but we didn’t know much about how ordinary people lived under the Taliban.” – Mirza Waheed, former editor of BBC Urdu.
The following summer, the New York Times filmed a documentary about her life. She then rose in prominence and gave interviews in print and on television, became chairperson of the District Child Assembly Swat, and was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize, of which she is the youngest nominee in history. She is also the winner of Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize.
What happened to Malala?
Through the years as her presence grew, her safety was more and more compromised, and yet she did not falter in her quest for peace and equal education for Pakistani girls.
“I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.” – Malala Yousafzai, envisioning a confrontation with the Taliban.
On the 9th October, 2012, while she was returning home on a school bus, Malala was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by the Taliban. For a few days after the attack she remained in intensive care, unconscious and in critical condition, but she later improved and was sent to Birmingham to recover in Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
What happened next?
As Malala recovered, people around the world reacted immediately and with conviction. The assassination attempt received immediate worldwide media coverage and produced an outpouring of sympathy, along with widespread anger. Protests against the shooting were held in several Pakistani cities the day after the attack.
”She has the vision of the wider picture and, even though she was personally in danger, she saw the need to advocate for the rights of all girls…She can see the power of her voice way beyond herself.” – Australian indigenous activist Hayley McQuire.
World leaders unanimously denounced the attack.
Madonna dedicated a song to Malala.
Angelina Jolie, former First Lady of the U.S. Laura Bush, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton all wrote and spoke about Malala.
On 15 October 2012, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched a petition “in support of what Malala fought for” using the slogan “I am Malala.”
The petition’s main demand is that there be no children left out of school by 2015, with the hope that “girls like Malala everywhere will soon be going to school.”
The petition contains three demands:
- We call on Pakistan to agree to a plan to deliver education for every child.
- We call on all countries to outlaw discrimination against girls.
- We call on international organizations to ensure the world’s 61 million out-of-school children are in education by the end of 2015.
What can we do to help?
Gordon Brown’s petition in Malala’s name calls for Pakistan “to ensure that every girl like Malala has the chance to go to school.” – Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education. It also calls on the international community to ensure all children have access to education by the end of 2015.
You can view and sign the petition at:
On July 12th, Malala’s 16th birthday, and “Malala Day”, Malala gave a speech addressed to the United Nations to call for their support of equal education around the world.
[Malala Yousafzai at the United Nations in New York.]
“Malala day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights…Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them.”
“They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And then, out of that silence came, thousands of voices. 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 was born.”
– Malala Yousafzai
She delivered this message directly to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
“Peace is necessary for education. In many parts of the world especially Pakistan and Afghanistan; terrorism, wars and conflicts stop children to go to their schools.” – Malala Yousafzai
Now we can use her message to convince all countries to deliver the funding to make Malala’s dream come true for all children.