Malala Yousafzai is a girl quite unlike any other; being shot in the head by the Taliban on her way home from school did not act as deterrence, but fuelled her desire to help initiate change and create a world in which access to education is a fundamental right for all, regardless of sex. She is a symbol of hope and resistance, working to overcome the violent objections to female education, not just in Pakistan but across the globe. To mark her sixteenth birthday on July 12, she is delivering a self-initiated petition to the United Nations demanding the enforcement of the basic right of education, an astounding feat for the teenager.
Her story is a remarkable demonstration of courage and shows just how much can be achieved through conviction in what is right. Yousafzai was attacked by the Taliban, along with two other girls, in a protest against education for women within Pakistan, in October 2012. She had already defied the ban put in place by the Taliban by attending school, yet the shooting did not silence her. Instead, her incredible bravery drove her towards educational activism; she seeks to promote a solution to discrimination based upon gender and raise global awareness of the barriers faced by girls in certain countries.
However, long before the shooting, Yousafzai was an activist who campaigned against the Taliban and their views on female education. At the age of 11 she became a blogger for the BBC under a pseudonym, writing about her experiences with the Taliban in order to make global the problems faced by females in her local area within Pakistan. A documentary was made about her life, detailing the hardships she and her family faced under Taliban rule, in which she stated “I must be a politician to save this country.” As a consequence, she was catapulted to fame which in turn led to her being shot.
In response to her work, she has become the youngest person ever to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize this year, and prior to this was also put forward for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011 by Desmond Tutu. These achievements are a testament to her bravery in standing up against the Taliban and speaking out for what she believes is right. The fact that she is the winner of Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize further demonstrates the significant impact she has had upon both her home country and the rest of the world.
Yousafzai has created a petition that aims to ensure the right to education is a reality for both males and females, and its success in gaining thousands of signatures has attracted media attention. The petition will be personally delivered to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on July 12 – her sixteenth birthday – as a symbol of defiance against the ban on female education. However, the petition focuses primarily on getting every girl and boy into school by December 2015 and ensuring the UN is committed to providing funding for teachers, schools and books in order to make this aim a reality.
Yousafzai’s story proves that nothing is impossible. Despite facing major obstacles, she has managed to establish herself as an important force in driving forward female education across the globe. She focuses on the solutions to solving the problems, both within Pakistan and on a global scale, rather than lingering on her ordeal with the Taliban, demonstrating true courage and bravery alongside a passion for equality that spurs on her actions. Yousafzai is now a symbol for positive change in a world where change is not always welcomed.