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WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH: Malala Yousafzai

Sheena Joseph | Mar 24 2020
Image credits: Twitter

Malala Yousafzai - The Girl Who Took A Bullet For Education

"If one man can destroy everything, why can't one girl change it?" - Malala

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani female education activist who was shot by the Taliban for her activism. But not even a bullet could stop her. Since then, Malala has become the youngest Nobel Prize laureate and written books which inspired women across the world to fight for fundamental rights. Media also have hailed Malala for her efforts and relentless fights to bring back the right of education for women. She was featured in Time magazine's 'most influential people' list in 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Early Life

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Image credits: Twitter

Malala was born in a lower-middle-class family in the Swat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. She was named after the popular Pashtun poet and warrior woman Malalai of Maiwand. She was educated by her father and was fluent in Pashto, Urdu, and English. Her father was an educational activist and ran a chain of schools in Taliban controlled regions. He encouraged Malala to become a politician even though she aspired to be a doctor. He discussed politics with Malala even after her brothers were sent to bed. He considered her to be special.

Her Own Battle

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Malala put all her father’s lessons in to use at the age of 11. The Taliban was taking over Swat and they had banned television, music, education for girls, and women from going shopping. In 2008, BBC Urdu wanted to publish an anonymous blog by a schoolgirl from the region. Ziauddin Yousafzai could not convince any families to allow this even though the girls were ready. Families feared the extreme measures taken by Taliban militants. In the end, the responsibility fell on Malala.

In 2009, the Taliban actively started shutting down girl's schools and set them on fire. Malala wrote about it on her BBC Urdu blog and a local newspaper published the latest entry. As girls were not allowed to write exams, private schools for boys decided to remain closed in solidarity. Her blog ended in March 2009. But the father-daughter duo continued to reach out to masses. They received death threats and by this time, Malala was committed to becoming a politician.

Success As An Activist

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Malala was interviewed by international media organisations such as Daily Aaj, and Toronto Star, Capital Talk. In December 2009, her BBC blogging identity was revealed and she appeared on TV to publicly advocate female education. In 2001, she trained local girls with an organisation Aware Girls. She was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize of the Dutch international children's advocacy group KidsRights Foundation. In December 2011, she won the National Peace Award for Youth. She publicly declared that she does not represent any political party but hopes to found one that advocates education.

Recognition Leading To Murder Attempt

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Malala had become a recognised face and she was very active on Facebook. She also started receiving death threats via social media. In 2012, Taliban leaders took a unanimous decision to murder her. Malala was 15 years old when she was shot on her way back from school. The bullet travelled 18 inches from her left eye and went through her neck and the bullet landed on her shoulder. She was airlifted to a hospital in Peshawar.

She was later taken to the UK and all the expenses were paid by the Pakistani government. Malala came out of the coma after seven days and recovered without any brain damage. After multiple surgeries, her facial nerve, skull, and hearing were repaired and restored.

Rising To The Occasion

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As expected of the fearless activist, Malala went on to speak at Harvard University, Oxford Union, Girl Summit London, and the United Nations after recovery. On her 18th birthday, Malala set up a school in Bekaa Valley in Lebanon for Syrian refugees. She told world leaders to invest in books, not bullets. 

In 2018, Malala gave an interview to David Letterman for his Netflix show 'My Next Guest Needs No Introduction'. She said that the Taliban's misogyny comes from a superiority complex and they misinterpret the teachings of Islam. She also said that she forgave the gunman because he was a young boy who thought he was doing the right thing.

Her memoir ' I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban' was a bestseller.