Malala Yousafzai first came to public attention in 2009 when she wrote a BBC diary about life in Swat Valley in Northwest Pakistan, where the local Taliban had banned girls from attending school. Her diary chronicled her desire to remain in education and for girls to have the chance to be educated.
She wrote it under a pseudonym, Gul Makai, the name of a heroine from a Pashtun folk tale. Three years later, in 2012, she was shot in the head and neck due to this, after her school bus was boarded by a member of the Taliban. Her recovery process began in Pakistan and continued in England, where she now lives with her family. Today, Malala is 17 years old.
Malala Yousafzai: Awards and Achievements
The bullet didn’t kill Malala but instead brought her international recognition as the young blogger from Swat Valley fighting for education and women’s rights. In 2011, she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by The Kids Rights Foundation and, in 2012, the Pakistani government awarded her the National Peace Award.
In 2012, she was named as the runner-up as TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year. She was runner-up to the US President Barack Obama and her photo was featured on the prestigious magazine’s cover. Then, in 2013, she won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought; she was 16 at the time. That same year, she released her autobiography I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban, co-written with British journalist Christina Lamb.
Also in 2013, Malala Yousafzai spoke at the headquarters of The United Nations, where she raised a call for worldwide access to education. She also gave the opening speech in the new Library of Birmingham, England. The Canadian Government gave Malala Honorary Citizenship too, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was the first to sign a petition requesting that Malala receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
Then, on October 10, 2014, Malala Yousafzai did indeed win the Nobel Peace Prize, sharing it with Indian child rights campaigner Kailash Satyarthi. They were both chosen for their campaigns for children and young people’s right to education. Malala became the youngest ever recipient of the Prize of 95 winners in total, and she was the 16th woman to receive the Prize.
Malala’s Story – BBC News Video
Reflections on the Courage of Malala Yousafzai
Malala, at only age 17, has become globally recognized as an activist for girl’s education. She has stood up for what she feels is not right, given speeches to leading officials around the world to share her views and is wise beyond her years. She reminds me that we cannot put someone into a neat box with a label simply because she or he is a teenager; Malala is intelligent, well spoken and has amazing insight into women’s rights.
She has certainly come a long way from writing under a pseudonym in a BBC blog, as well. Now she proudly says her name and has even written an autobiography that inspires girls and women of all ages. Regarding using a pseudonym, I considered doing that when I first started to publish online. I was fearful that my ex would find out about my writing goals and want to squash them out of vengeance. But, then I thought about my rights to say what I feel and to be myself; that feeling of being able to speak my mind in a respectful way outweighed my fears. I chose not to use a pseudonym.
As for girl’s education and women’s rights in general, one quote from Malala Yousafzai has resonated with me. She said, “I speak not for myself but for those without a voice… those who have fought for their rights… their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated.” I applaud you, Malala, and thank you for using your public platform to help others who don’t have access to education, regardless of gender. And, I thank you for having a strong drive toward making peace a reality.
She is a wonderful representative, doing so much for others. I think about where this young, powerful woman will be in ten years and I smile; the world is a better place for Malala being in it.
I would like to thank Aquileana of La Audacia de Aquiles for helping me with this special post. Aquileana completed much of the research for it and suggested the video, as well. Thank you so much!
©2014 Christy Birmingham