If you've heard of Malala Yousafzai I imagine that, like me, you've been impressed at her bravery and determination. She has been an outspoken education activist since she was 11 or 12 years old, literally risking her life in order to tell the world her story.
Born July 12, 1997 in Mingora, northwest Pakistan, Malala was named after Malalai of Maiwand, a Pashtun poetess and warrior woman. This first Malala was famous for rallying the Afghan army and inspiring them to victory against British troops in the Battle of Maiwind. She is a national folk hero and many schools and hospitals in Afghanistan have been named after her. I doubt that Malala Yousafzai's parents had any idea that their own daughter would one day too have schools named after her; that she too would rise up against adversity and not only triumph, but inspire others with her courage.
Malala's father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, a poet, school owner, and educational activist, encouraged her to aim high with her education, suggesting that she become a politician–she reportedly also considered being a doctor or a pilot.
By the time Malala began writing her then-anonymous blogs for the BBC, she had already spoken out about her education rights being stripped away by the Taliban. In 2009, Ziauddin was asked by BBC Urdu if a girl from one of his schools would be willing to write a diary about life under the Taliban. One, called Aisha, did agree but was then subsequently forbidden to by her parents, who feared Taliban reprisals. Malala stepped into the breach, changing her life forever. Her diaries have been compared by some to those of Anne Frank, and there are some resemblances. Both girls wrote whilst under extreme forms of oppression, and their diaries reveal the brutalities of living under such conditions as well as the more personal details of everyday life that make their work so much more poignant.
Malala's diaries shone a light on the difficulties and horror of living under extremism and she has continued to do so with her activism work to support and promote education for girls everywhere. Since her name was made public in 2009, Malala has been issued with threats from the Taliban, who claimed that "We did not attack her for raising voice for education. We targeted her for opposing mujahideen and their war."
On October 9, 2012, a gunman boarded her school bus and shot her in the head and neck, as well as injuring two of her classmates, Kainat Riaz and Shazia Ramzan. Although her condition was at first critical, she has continued to improve and is now recovering in the UK with her family, even returning to school.
The call of "I Am Malala" has been heard all over the world. Leaders and ordinary people alike have demanded change, inspired by Malala’s fearless defence of a girl's right to education. UN Special Envoy for Global Education and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched a UN petition in Malala's name demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015 and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has announced that 10 November will be celebrated as Malala Day. She has even been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize–the youngest person in history to have been given the honour.
Malala's influence has been global, bringing the voice of the millions of girls who are denied an education to the world's attention. Her fearless devotion to her cause has cost her dearly but she shows no sign of wavering. I can hardly think of a more inspirational girl.
Girl Museum Inc.