Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is an international symbol of peace, education and courage, for her persistent defiance against the practice of illiteracy of women in her country, imposed by the militant group Taliban.  

Full Name: Malala Yousafzai

Born: 12 July 1997, Mingora, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan

Parents: Ziauddin Yousafzai (Father), Toor Pekai (Mother)

Occupation: Student, Blogger, Children’s Activist, Women’s Rights Activist, Education Rights Activist.

Awards: Sakharov Prize, National Malala Peace Prize, Simone de Beauvoir Prize, Ambassador of Conscience Award, The US Glamour Award for Woman of the Year.

Malala Yousafzai is perhaps the most popular teenager in the world at present. Young Malala is regarded as a symbol of women empowerment and courage, because of her heroic defiance against the militant group Taliban. Malala is best known for her strong resistance against the Taliban’s repeated attempts of prohibiting women education in Pakistan. Malala was shot in the head by one of the Taliban’s gunmen, but she survived the attack and has said that it has only made her stronger.

Birth and Family

Malala Yousafzai was born on 12 July 1997, in the Mingora township of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan. Her family, which is Sunni Muslim by religion, belongs to Pashtun ethnicity. Her surname Yousafzai is the name of one of the largest tribal Pashtun communities to be living in Pakistan’s Swat valley. She also has two younger brothers in her family.

Malala Yousafzai has herself confessed that her father Ziauddin Yousafzai has been her mentor throughout her childhood, and still continues to be so. Malala was mostly educated by her father, who happens to run a chain of schools himself. Besides being occupied by the schools, Ziauddin is also a poet and a committed educational activist. He played a big part in shaping up Malala’s ideals and has encouraged her to become a politician.

Blog Activism

At barely 11 years of age, Malala was already blogging for the BBC about the conditions in Pakistan, when the Taliban had threatened to shut down girls’ schools from operating in the province. Malala used the alibi ‘Gul Makai’ while blogging, to ensure that her identity is not exposed. Malala reported about quite a few things that she observed, especially the Taliban’s threats and actions of shutting down her school.

When the Taliban attacked the girls’ schools in the Swat valley, Malala gave a rousing speech to remember in Peshawar, in September 2008. Her speech had the title: "How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?" The speech followed much acclaim and respect towards Malala, but the Taliban too issued their warning to the Yousafzai family. Notwithstanding Taliban’s warning, Malala continued her activism for education fervently, but was attacked and shot by a Taliban gunman in the most coward act of response possible.

Attack and Injury

Though Malala was cautioned several times by the Taliban for speaking against them, she didn’t budge. Instead, she feared for her father, who too was an active anti-Taliban activist. However, no one on the planet, leave alone Malala, would have imagined that the Taliban could harm even a child.

The attack occurred on October 9, 2012. Malala as usual, was on her way back home from school, in a public transport bus. A man boarded the bus and demanded to know which girl was Malala. On being asked the question, Malala’s friends instantly turned towards her, which gave her location away. The gunman then drew out his Colt 45 and fired at Malala, injuring the left portion of her head. Two other girls were also injured in the attack. On being airlifted to a military hospital in Peshawar, a portion of Malala’s skull had to be removed, so that her swelling brain could be operated on. Malala was then transferred to the Queens Hospital in Birmingham, England for further treatment.

Support and Honor

The attack had left Malala in quite a critical condition. Though the doctors in Peshawar had asserted that Malala had recovered up to 70%, she still required multiple surgeries. Once she had been out of coma, the doctors stopped sedating her. Though she could move her four limbs, the left side of her face was paralyzed. Following this there was an outpour of offers from world over for treating Malala. The hospital received many volunteering calls, which offered to fully bear Malala’s cost of treatment. Many world leaders and celebrities also came out in support of Malala and publicly condemned the Taliban for its act of sheer cowardice.

Finally, in March 2013, Malala was able to attend school in Birmingham, which is also her alternate residence. Post her full fledged recovery, Malala also wrote an autobiography titled: I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. She was also invited by the United Nations to address the UN assembly on 16th July 2013, which the UN described as ‘Malala Day’. Malala graced the event and addressed the young assembly of more than 500 educational advocates of the world by saying that she would continue to fight for the educational rights of every child in Pakistan. She further said that her goal is to see every child in Pakistan educated, and that sheepish attack in October 2012 has only made her stronger.

Malala has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and has already won many international awards such as the Sakharov Prize, the Simone de Beauvoir Prize, and Ambassador of Conscience Award. Should she win the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala would be the youngest honoree in the history of the award. 

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