Education. It’s a word and an institution that has been tugged back and forth between different ideologies, time periods, political parties, and religious groups to name a few, and, depending on what area of the world it is cherished or challenged, can depend on a matter of life and death. For Malala Yousafzai, a young girl in the Swat District of Pakistan, her fight for the right to education was a matter of death.
Malala Yousafzai’s name was not common around the American dinner table before she was the unsuccessful assassination target of the Taliban fall 2012. Although her existence was not known by many at the time, she had been making major waves in the gorgeous area Swat Valley of Pakistan when the Taliban gained control of the region. At the young age of eleven, Malala began blogging for the BBC Urdu under a pseudonym where she challenged the Taliban’s stifling of women’s rights across the board. Malala, whose father owned and ran a group of schools in the region, focused her eloquent criticisms on a girl’s right to education.
It was a few years later that she suffered gunshots while riding her school bus from a Taliban assassin, ultimately launching her status beyond regional and specialized media coverage to a global fighter for peace and human rights. Prior to her surviving an attempt on her life, she was nominated by Desmond Tutu for the International Children’s Peace Prize. When word of her attack spread throughout the globe, many Pakistanis took to the streets to protest her attempted murder. A German broadcasting station called Malala “the most famous teenager in the world” after the shooting. Malala faced a long road to recovery and spent many months in a hospital in Birmingham, UK.
She never stopped fighting after being targeted by one of the most dangerous terrorist groups on the Earth. She was only more emboldened. Stronger. She was the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, making her the youngest laureate in history at seventeen. She spoke at the United Nations headquarters and demanded worldwide access to education. She was a major influence on Pakistan’s first Right to Education bill. On her eighteenth birthday in 2015, Malala opened a school near the Syrian border that educates young women from fourteen to eighteen years of age.
It’s these exemplary souls that deserve our attention, our inspiration.
Perhaps we’ve all been watching the news a little too much lately. So many large issues and even larger celebrity and political personalities are covered, but there are very few stories that focus on individual determination, hope blooming out of despair, one person making great, lasting, monumental changes for all of humanity. It’s exceptional girls like living, breathing, teenage Malala that deserves our undivided attention. Our undivided attention must not be geared toward division anymore.
Malala’s story can teach us to never feel like the task is too daunting–too formidable. With compassion for life, equality, and justice, change can be right around the corner if only we remember eleven year old Malala risking everything, publishing under a pseudonym out of fear of retribution, and immensely changing the world for the better.
Visit her page: https://www.malala.org/