Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani education advocate who, at the age of 17 in 2014, became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize after surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban. Yousafzai became an advocate for girls’ education when she herself was still a child, which resulted in the Taliban issuing a death threat against her. On October 9, 2012, a gunman shot Malala when she was traveling home from school. She survived and has continued to speak out on the importance of education. In 2013, she gave a speech to the United Nations and published her first book, I Am Malala.
Yousafzai attended a school that her father, educator Ziauddin Yousafzai, had founded. After the Taliban began attacking girls’ schools in Swat, Malala gave a speech in Peshawar, Pakistan, in September 2008. The title of her talk was, ‘How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?’ (Biography.com)
In early 2009, when she was just 11 years old, Yousafzai began blogging for the BBC about living under the Taliban’s threats to deny her an education. In order to hide her identity, she used the name Gul Makai. However, she was revealed to be the BBC blogger in December of that year. With a growing public platform, Yousafzai continued to speak out about her right, and the right of all women, to an education. Her activism resulted in a nomination for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011. That same year, she was awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize. Malala and her family learned that the Taliban had issued a death threat against her because of her activism. Though Malala was frightened for the safety of her father — an anti-Taliban activist — she and her family initially felt that the fundamentalist group would not actually harm a child. On October 9, 2012, when 15-year-old Malala was riding a bus with friends on their way home from school, a masked gunman boarded the bus and demanded to know which girl was Malala. When her friends looked toward Malala, her location was given away. The gunman fired at her, hitting Malala in the left side of her head; the bullet then travelled down her neck. Two other girls were also injured in the attack.
Nine months after being shot by the Taliban, Malala Yousafzai gave a speech at the United Nations on her 16th birthday in 2013. Yousafzai highlighted her focus on education and women’s rights, urging world leaders to change their policies. Following the attack, Yousafzai said that ‘the terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born.’
‘We should not assume that it is these people’s fault that they’re refugees – it’s never their fault. And we should try to understand how would we want other people to welcome us when it happens to us … I think we need to look at it from the human eye and be more welcoming and consider them as our brothers and sisters. Let’s be human and let’s understand that we are all living on this one planet Earth.’ (Harvard Kennedy School)– Malala on refugees