Malala Yousafzai was born on July 12, 1997, in Mingora, the largest city in the Swat Valley in what is now the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan.
“Welcoming a baby girl is not always cause for celebration in Pakistan — but my father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, was determined to give me every opportunity a boy would have.”
In 2007, when Malala was ten years old, the situation in the Swat Valley rapidly changed for her family and community. The Taliban took control and girls were banned from attending school, and cultural activities like dancing and watching television were prohibited. By the end of 2008, the Taliban had destroyed over 400 schools.
In 2009, Malala started to blog under the pseudonym Gul Makai about what it was like to be forced to stay at home, blocked from education and questioning the notices of The Taliban. Unfortunately, her anonymity didn’t last for very long and in 2012 on her way home from school, Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman.
Miraculously she survived.
“The extremists were, and they are, afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women… Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons.”
Malala has become an inspiration for women all over the globe and her goals of human rights and access to education apply to everyone. She believes that every person has the right to fair treatment as well as education, especially women and girls.
Just nine months after being shot, she gave an empowering speech at the United Nations on her 16th birthday in 2013. She urged leaders around the world to change their policies and to help women and girls have the same accessibility as men.
“I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who was shot. I want to be remembered as the girl who stood up.”
In 2014, she became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 2017, she was accepted to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at Oxford’s Lady Margaret Hall. This month, she successfully finished her degree.
“At 11 years old, I woke up one morning and could not go to school because the Taliban had banned girls’ education in Swat, the region of Pakistan where I was born. I am so pleased that I spoke out and for my years of campaigning that have followed. Now 21, I am able to study at a prestigious university — but I want to live in a world where every girl is able to weigh her future career options in the way I hope to when I graduate.”
As she has studied, she continued her campaign and has taken it around the world. A fund set up in her name helps children in education around the globe.
“There are hundreds and thousands of women and girls in all parts of the world who are standing up. Some of them we don’t even know — their names would never be known — but they’re changing their communities.”