Malala Yousafzai became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize back in 2014. But her story is one of an ordinary girl with extraordinary dreams. This youth icon made the world take notice and strives to eradicate the biggest bane faced by the world-illiteracy. Through her NGO The Malala Fund, she wants to provide education to the 130 million girls who are out of school today.
Malala was born in 1997 in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, in a liberalized household of Ziauddin and Tor Pekai Yousafzai. Her father was an education activist and ran a school in the city. Young Malala would be play-acting as a teacher, even before she could talk. Post-2007, things in her hometown took a turn for the worse, under the Taliban regime. Cultural activities, tv viewing, and education for girls were curbed.
Fighting the Taliban Oppressors
11-year-old Malala stood up against the mighty Taliban and fought for her right to education. In 2009, she started writing anonymously as Gul Makai for BBC in the Urdu language. She and many others like her became an Internally Displaced Person (IDP). On her return, Malala’s activism for free quality education for girls in Pakistan became even more vociferous. She was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011 and won Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize in the same year.
Though her cause attracted many around the world, not everyone supported her noble ventures. On the fateful morning 9th October 2012, she was shot thrice by masked gunmen, while returning from the school on the bus. She was taken to England, where she had to undergo multiple surgeries, for the bullet that had entered and exited her head and gotten lodged in the shoulder. Since then she calls Birmingham her home and is now attending Oxford University, where she is studying in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.
The Teenager Became the Voice of Change
She has spoken at the UN, been conferred with the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, a prestigious award from the European Parliament. She has visited Jordan and met the Syrian refugees, Kenya and Northern Nigeria, where many girls like her had to give up on education because of the Boko Haram and ISIS. At just 17 years of age, Malala along with Kailash Satyarthi won the Nobel Peace Prize, 2014, “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”.
The Malala Fund was started in 2014, along with her father, wherein they strive to provide 12 years of quality education to girls in developing countries. Education helps to curb many social evils- like child marriage, gender discrimination, early pregnancy, and mother and child mortality. Malala Fund’s Gulmaki Network holds world leaders accountable for their promise and is currently working in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Brazil, Nigeria, and Syria region. Girls miss out on education due to many factors as they are put in child labor, early marriage, conflict in their homeland, expensive education, gender bias, poor quality of life in refugee camps, poor health and natural disasters.
Malala Fund for the Education of Young Girls
The education crusader believes that by investing in girl’s education, it can work tremendously for the growth of a country- it can generate about $30 trillion to the world economy. It helps in eradicating poverty, creating jobs, healthier lifestyles, awareness and fight for the global climate crisis and leading to a more peaceful existence. There are educators and advocates who share the same view as her and work to empower girls and strive for female education.
In a recent interview with Teen Vogue, Malala says that the” last decade was of youth activism, but the next one is about youth change-making.” In the same view, she has spoken about a pertinent topic of the current time: Islamophobia. The 22 years old believes that it is more prevalent in places that lack diversity. She feels that oppressive forces like the Taliban and other terrorist organizations use religion as a tool of misogyny and patriarchy. This is a flawed take on religion, and Malala urges religious scholars from all religions:” Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, any other religion, that religion is for the equal rights of everyone.”
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She wants to become the change-maker in the coming years and create opportunities for education and a better life for girls globally.