Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani women’s rights activist who became the youngest ever person to be awarded the ‘Nobel Prize’ when she won the ‘Nobel Peace Prize’ in 2014. Malala is mainly known for her advocacy of female education in her native Swat Valley, Pakistan. Born into a family of progressive thinkers and educationists, Malala started expressing her frustration over the restrictive practices of the Taliban in an anonymous blog when she was just 11 years old. Very mature and intelligent for her age, Malala wrote about how the Taliban were attempting to control the valley and trying to prevent girls from going to school. Her blog gained much prominence around the world and she soon became popular as an emerging activist who campaigned for girls’ rights to education. Encouraged by her father to freely express her thoughts, she became more vocal in voicing her opinion of women’s rights to education. This angered the Taliban which issued a death threat against her. She was shot by a gunman when she was returning from school. The gutsy girl survived the horrific attack and returned to activism even more determined than before.
Childhood & Early Life
Malala Yousafzai was born on July 12, 1997, in Mingora, Swat, Pakistan, to Ziauddin Yousafzai and his wife Toor Pekai Yousafzai. She has two younger brothers. Her family ran a chain of schools.
Her father, an educational activist, taught her Pashto, English, and Urdu languages. Her father sensed very early that there was something special about Malala and encouraged her to think and express freely.
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She started speaking about education rights in 2008 when she was just 11 years old. She addressed an audience at a local press club in Peshawar and questioned the audacity of the Taliban to snatch away her basic right to education.
At the behest of her father, she began writing an anonymous blog for the ‘BBC Urdu’ website under the pseudonym ‘Gul Makai.’ The idea of a schoolgirl blogging about the Taliban’s growing influence in Swat was originated by Aamer Ahmed Khan of ‘BBC Urdu.’
To write about Taliban was a very risky decision, but Ziauddin Yousafzai himself encouraged the 11-year-old Malala to do it. Her first blog entry was posted on 3 January 2009. She wrote about how fewer girls dared to attend school because of the Taliban, and how the Taliban had forced the school shut.
She continued writing until the school reopened. Subsequently, Malala and her friends started attending classes as they did before. She then gave her school exams and ended the blog in March 2009.
Even though she wrote the blog anonymously, her identity was later revealed, and she became a popular teenage activist who was often invited to deliver speeches.
Over the next couple of years, she continued gaining popularity, even receiving an award from the prime minister of Pakistan. The Taliban was increasingly becoming agitated with this young crusader and she routinely received death threats from the terrorist outfit.
When she was returning home from school on 9 October 2012, a Taliban gunman shot her in the head. The bullet went through her head and neck and ended up in her shoulder. Two of her friends were also injured in the attack.
She survived the attack and received immediate treatment at a hospital in Peshawar and was later transferred to Birmingham, England for further care. Eventually, she recovered and resumed her studies at the all-girls ‘Edgbaston High School’ in Birmingham.
Her ordeal with the Taliban and her miraculous survival led to an outpour of support from all corners of the world. The support that she received helped her to further her cause.
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She gave a speech at the United Nation on her 16th birthday in 2013; The UN dubbed the event ‘Malala Day.’ The same year, her autobiography ‘I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban’ was published.
She continued her activism with fervor and spoke at the ‘Harvard University’ and the ‘Oxford Union’ in 2013. In July 2014, she advocated the rights of girls when she spoke at the ‘Girl Summit’ in London.
On her 18th birthday in 2015, Malala opened a school for the Syrian refugees in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Currently, she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, politics, and economics at ‘Lady Margaret Hall,’ Oxford.
Awards & Achievements
She was bestowed with ‘Sitara-e-Shujaat,’ Pakistan's third-highest civilian bravery award in October 2012. In November 2012, she was presented with the ‘Mother Teresa Award for Social Justice.’
‘The Clinton Foundation’ presented her with the ‘Clinton Global Citizen Award’ in 2013.
The European Parliament honored her with the ‘Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought’ in 2013.
She was awarded the 2014 ‘Nobel Peace Prize’ along with Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”
Personal Life & Legacy
She hails from a close-knit family consisting of herself, her parents, and two younger brothers. She joked while receiving the ‘Nobel Prize’ that she is probably the only Nobel laureate who still fights with her younger brothers.
This activist is the youngest ever recipient of the ‘Nobel Prize’ and the only Pakistani winner of the ‘Nobel Peace Prize.’