Our woman hero of July is Malala Yousafzai! Malala, who was born on 12 July 1997, is a Pakistani who is known for human rights advocacy, especially the education of women and children in her native Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, northwest Pakistan, where the local Taliban, a terrorist group, had at times banned girls from attending school. Malala is the youngest Nobel Prize laurate, receiving the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people, and for the right of all children to education. Malala, who was 17 years old at that time, shared the prize with Kailash Satyarthi, a children’s rights activist from India.
Malala was mostly educated by her father, who was also an educational activist and ran a chain of private schools known as the Khushal Public School in the region. Malala was very inspired by her father’s thoughts and humanitarian work, and her father allowed her to stay up at night and talk about politics. Further inspired by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Malala started speaking about education rights as early as September 2008.
In early 2009, when she was 11–12, Malala wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC Urdu detailing her life during the Taliban occupation of Swat. The following summer, journalist Adam B. Ellick made a New York Times documentary about her life as the Pakistani military intervened in the region. She rose in prominence, giving interviews in print and on television, and was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by a South African activist Desmond Tutu. But because of this, Malala received many death threats. The death threats were published in the newspaper, slipped under her door, and posted on her Facebook account.
On 9 October 2012, while on a bus in the Swat District, after taking an exam, Malala was shot in the head, along with two other girls, by a Taliban gunman in an assassination attempt in retaliation for her activism. The attempt on Malala’s life sparked an international condemnation and international outpouring of support. Malala was treated at Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology, and when her condition has improved enough, she was transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, UK.
After recovered, Malala became a prominent activist for the right to education. Based out of Birmingham, she founded the Malala Fund, a non-profit organisation, and in 2013 co-authored I am Malala, an international best seller book. In 2012, she was the recipient of Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and the 2013 Sakharov Prize. Malala is currently studying for a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, UK.
Malala Yousafzai inspires us to be courageous enough to raise our voice and fight for what is right, even in the face of harm, danger and death. Malala also teaches us that education is the basic right of every human being, and is the first step to eradicating extremism and ending poverty.
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