A human rights activist, especially known for advocacy for female education, Pakistani Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person to receive a Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, at the age of 17. Malala has gained international recognition for her battle against the oppression of children and young people and for the right to education for everyone, a cause she started to grow passionate about when she was just 11 years old, when, using a pseudonym, she wrote an entry for the BBC Urdu blog, providing a glimpse into her own fight and that of other girls’ in the battle for the right to education in her home region of the Swat Valley in the northeastern Pakistan province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the local Taliban banned girls from school.
The following summer, the New York Times published a documentary on the day-to-day life and struggle of the young Pakistani, resulting in a series of local and international TV and press interviews. Her visibility brought many achievements but also made Malala a target of the Taliban, eventually leading to a tragedy when on October 9th, 2012, an armed man broke into a school bus carrying Yousafzai and her classmates, and shot her, leaving two other girls wounded. She was hit with one bullet, which went through her head and neck, and ended up in her shoulder. In the days following the attack, Malala had remained unconscious and in critical condition. Once her situation had improved, she was moved to a hospital in Birmingham, England, where she lives with her family to this day.
Exiled from her homeland for her own safety, Yousafzai, now 20, dreams of a day when she will be able to return to Pakistan and live freely, but she doesn’t give up the fight for the universal right to education. Having been recently accepted to Oxford University, one of the world’s most prestigious institutions, the young Pakistani is now studying philosophy, politics, and economics. Even with this new achievement, Malala doesn’t forget about all those girls who still don’t have access to education, and writes on her blog, “I promise to keep fighting until the day that every girl can put on her uniform, pack up her books and walk to school without fear.“
Acting globally, Malala is carrying out several education initiatives, mainly with the United Nations. One of them led the young woman to the UN Sustainable Development Summit on August 18th, 2015, where, surrounded by 193 young people from around the world, each holding up a solar powered blue lantern, she called upon the world leaders to make universal education a priority.
Malala Yousafzai’s story of life and struggle inspires women and girls not only from her homeland but from all over the world, and encourages them to continue the battle for their rights and education. In the activist’s own words, spoken on the day of her sixteenth birthday when she addressed 400 young people at the United Nations Youth Assembly, “A child, a book and a pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education before everything!“