Featured Activist: Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai, image from www.ft.com

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani schoolgirl and activist for the right to education for women.

At age 11 she wrote a blog for the BBC called The Diary of a Pakistani Schoolgirl. In the diary Malala talks about her life in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, where the Taliban banned girls’ education. The ban was eventually lifted and Malala returned to school. In 2010 a documentary was made about her life and she continued to fight for education for girls in Pakistan.

On the 9th of October 2012 Malala was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen when she was on the bus on the way home from school. She was rushed to hospital and after a few days flown to the UK for treatment. She was just 15 years old when this happened. She recovered well and was released from hospital in January the following year. There was global outcry following the shooting, and an outpouring of support for Malala. Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, started a petition in her name calling for all children globally to be in school by 2015. This led to Pakistan ratifying their first ever Right to Education bill. The Bill states that “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law.”

Malala won Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and was the youngest person ever to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize but wasn’t disappointed saying that:

“I have a prize in my mind that — for which I’ll struggle …The prize that is the award [is] to see every child to go to school. And I’ll serve my whole life for that.”

On her 16th birthday Malala addressed the United Nations calling for worldwide access to education.

You can watch Malala’s full speech here:

In October 2013 Malala released her memoir I am Malala. She is living and going to school in Birmingham, England, as it is too dangerous for her to return to Pakistan. She has won many honours and awards, and inspires human rights activists all over the world. Malala continues to advocate for global access to education for all children.

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