by Salvador Gurrola, Bre Jernagin, and Mary Patricia Olano
17 year old Malala Yousafzai is the youngest individual to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and is an inspiration to all women. Malala, born in Pakistan on July 12, 1997, is an activist for women’s rights to education. Her strength and devotion was easily recognized even at a young age. When she was in fifth grade, she was interviewed by a regional TV channel about the importance of the mother tongue on “International Mother Tongue Day,” a day celebrating and promoting awareness of cultural diversity and multilingualism. Continuing in 2009, at the age of 12, she wrote a blog under an alias for BBC, (British Broadcasting Corporation) about her dreams and aspirations and what life was like under the Taliban. Malala has won the Nobel peace prize, the Sakharov Prize, the Simone de Beauvoir Prize, Honorary Canadian Citizenship, the National Youth Peace Prize, and many more. Once she started getting attention as a national advocate, she soon became a threat to the Taliban, an Islamic militant group running in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Due to this, Malala was shot three times on the left side of her forehead. Once taken out of her medically induced coma, regardless of the obstacles, she still succeeded in continuing her education in Birmingham England. Among many accomplishments after her grueling recovery, Malala still remained brave. Examples of her fearlessness and courage start with a speech at the United Nations on her 16th birthday, and writing an autobiography, “I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was shot by the Taliban”. Despite the shooting, and the continuous threats from the Taliban, Malala still remains strong and persistent in her fight to advocate education for all women. In fact, every hardship and hindrance she has had to endure has made her fight more vigorous and successful.
In congratulating Yousafzai, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said: “She is (the) pride of Pakistan, she has made her countrymen proud. Her achievement is unparalleled and unequaled. Girls and boys of the world should take lead from her struggle and commitment.” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described her as “a brave and gentle advocate of peace who through the simple act of going to school became a global teacher.”
On October 9, 2012, a masked Taliban gunman flagged Malala Yousafzai’s school bus down and shouted, “Who is Malala?” Malala’s classmates’ glances toward her allowed the gunman to recognize her. He shot Malala in the face along with two other girls. A teacher who was also on the bus instructed the driver to drive to a local hospital a few miles away while Malala, bleeding profusely, remained unconscious. Malala was later air lifted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England where she was given further treatment. Malala was able to survive that point blank shot from the gunman because the bullet had entered through the side of her left eye, ricocheted off her skull, traveled down to her left shoulder and stopped there. The bullet had destroyed her left ear and sent fragments of her skull into her brain tissue which made her brain swell but did not cause any major brain damage. In her autobiography, I am Malala, Malala recalls waking up in the hospital in England and feeling very scared and confused, knowing that something terrible has happened. After five months of intense therapy and successful surgeries, Malala was able to continue school in Birmingham.
This attempted assassination by the Taliban was meant to silence Malala because of her indignant efforts to push for young girls in Pakistan to have the right to education. In January 2009, the Taliban ordered all girls’ schools to close, including Malala’s. This did not stop Malala from fighting for her right to an education. In 2009, Malala started anonymously blogging for BBC’s Urdu site about her life and what it was like to live under the Taliban. In her blog, she wrote about her dreams to become a doctor, her fears of terrorists, and her determination to have the education she needs. Her blog gained thousands of readers all over the world and her words were being heard. Because of her very powerful voice, the Taliban targeted her, which led to her close assassination. The Taliban’s efforts to silence Malala did the complete opposite, making her more indignant and passionate about her cause and making her words louder and more powerful than ever.
Malala’s start as an anonymous blogger for BBC and her unfortunate experience with the Taliban led her to become the voice of girls all around the world who don’t receive the basic human right of an education. After her recovery from the almost fatal shot, she returned to school, showing society that nothing can hold her back from following her mission of receiving an education. With her rise to national attention, she was able to present a speech at the U.N., receive the Nobel Peace Prize and write her first autobiography. These accomplishments allowed her and her father to begin the Malala Fund.
This fund empowers girls through quality education to achieve their full potential and spark positive changes in their communities. The Malala fund has received the funding to aid girls in developing countries. The funding allowed for increased enrollment for Pakistan girls at secondary schools in Swat Valley, the opening of a secondary school for 200 girls in Lebanon, the enrollment of 300 girls in tech training courses in Kenya by 2016, as well as providing 30 Nigerian girls who escaped the Boko Haram after being kidnapped for attending school, with scholarships to complete their education at secondary school. Malala’s story of fighting for the basic right to an education, has led her to write the book “I am Malala”, a story of Malala’s family, the fight for girls’ rights to education, and her parents’ admiration for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.
The book will make you see the power of one person’s voice to inspire change in the world. The book has become an international best-seller and has been published in over 27 countries. The book’s fame has resulted in Malala partaking in the Unique Lives and Experience Speakers series to discuss issues in her book as well as spread her movement of allowing girls from all parts of the world to have access to a proper education. Malala Yousafzai will be speaking at the San Jose State Event Center on June 26 at 7 p.m.
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