In Society

A schoolgirl’s odyssey – the story of Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education. She is very well know across the world for being a Human Rights advocate for education in her native Swat Valley in Northeast Pakistan. I wanted to blog about her because she is one of the brightest, courageous, and most influential people alive today. She continues to be an inspiration for me as well as for many other people around the world. I see her as the modern day Gandhi.

After being exiled from her town in the Swat Valley, she returned home and continued to be an activist for the education of girls in Pakistan. At the age of eleven years old, pressured by her father, she became a blogger covering the growing presence of the Taliban in her town for the BBC Urdu, using a pseudonym for her own safety. After the BBC diary ended, the New York Times published a documentary in 2009 about Malala. As she became more famous the Taliban continued to oppress the region of Swat and issued a ban on girls attending school. By January 2009, the Taliban had already blown up hundreds of girl’s schools. The Pakistani Government’s Army went into war against the Taliban. Malala, her family, as well as about a million people fled the region only to come back three months later, finding her school damaged by both the militants and the military.

On October 11, 2009 Archbishop Desmond Tutu named her for the International Children’s Peace Prize of the Dutch International Children’s advocacy group Kid’s Rights Foundation. Malala stood up for herself and for other girls using the national and international media to further her plight for girl’s rights to attend school worldwide. On December 19, 2011 Prime Minister Yousaf Raze Gilani awarded her the National Peace Award for Youth.

As Malala’s fame grew she received many death threats at her home as well as on her Facebook page, but she refused to back down and for that reason the Taliban held a meeting in the summer of 2012 in which they conspired to kill her. On October 9, 2012 she was shot three times by a 23 year-old man named Atta Ullah Khan, who was a chemistry student and was part of a militant group called Shuru. The police arrested six other men that were members of Shuru and whom they believed had taken part in the assassination plot, but they were released for lack of evidence in their involvement. Esanullah Ehsan, the main spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack saying that Malala was “the symbol of the infidels and obscenity.”

The assassination attempt got international media coverage and there was an overwhelming outcry of sympathy and support for Malala. Many heads of countries and diplomats showed their support for her such as Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardani, United States President Barack Obama, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and British Foreign Secretary William Hague. Demonstrations were held in many Pakistani cities which resulted in over two million people signing the “Right to Education” petition, which in turn eradicated the first “Right to Education” bill in Pakistan.

Her first appearance after the attack was on July 12, 2013 where she called for the worldwide access to education. The United Nations named the event “Malala Day” which had an audience of over five hundred young education advocates from all over the world. After receiving many standing ovations for her speech, she presented the Chamber with “The Education We Want,” a youth resolution of education demand.

Here is an excerpt of her speech to the United Nations:

“The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born … I am not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I’m here to speak up for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists.”

On October 2014 Malala Yousafzai, at seventeen years old, became the first Pakistani and the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace prize for her struggle against the oppression of children and young people and their right to education. Malala continues her work and remains one of the kindest, brightest, and most beautiful souls that the world has ever encountered.

I am also posting the speech she gave as she received The 2014 Nobel Price for Peace.

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