Women’s History Month: Malala Yousafzai

March 7, 2022 / Mb Staffing

Malala Yousafzai was born on July 12, 1997, in Mingora, Pakistan. Her hometown was festive and attracted many tourists as it was the largest city in the Swat Valley in what is now the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in Pakistan.

She was the oldest of her three siblings and were raised by Ziauddin and Tor Dekai Yousafzai. She grew up in school with her father as a teacher in the city. Her quests for education originated in the classroom before she could even walk, as she would reminisce about stories her father would tell her that she would toddle in his classroom and acted as if she was the teacher. It was difficult for her father to raise a young woman in Pakistan as education for girls was scarcely available, especially during the Taliban’s regime. However, he insisted that she received all the same opportunities afforded to the boys’ children. Yousafzai’s experience, along with her father’s influence, sparked an important foundation in her life that begun her journey.

Malala Yousafzai’s advocacy is making education nationally available for young women in Pakistan. Her values are deeply rooted from her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who was an educator that ran an all-girls’ school in their village. When she was ten years old, tension between the Taliban and Pakistan grew and lead to turbulent changes in her thirst for education. Taliban extremists began taking control of her home village and banned many of her favorite things. “Girls were no longer able to attend school, and owning a television, playing music and dancing were all prohibited,” according to Womenhistory.org. Over 400 girls’ schools were destroyed by the hand of the Taliban by the end of 2008. She then decided to stand-up and use her passion for education as a voice against the Taliban.

In the early 2009, Malala started to blog anonymously on the Urdu language site for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Under the penname “Gul Makai,” her first diary entry was titled “I Am Afraid,” and she reflected on the nightmares she had of a war happening in her beautiful Swat Valley as she feared going to school (which would soon become a reality).

Her fears would soon become a reality as the Pakistan’s war with the Taliban was fast approaching, and on May 5, 2009, she was forced to leave her home and seek safety 100 miles away. She was placed as an internally displaced person (IDP) before returning after being weeks away from Swat Valley. Then, she began continuing her public campaign spreading awareness in the media and throughout Pakistan. “Her activism resulted in a nomination for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011,” according to Womenhistory.org. “That same year, she was awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize.”

Her voice grew louder and louder, and her activism for the rights of education for Pakistani girls became popularly known. On the morning of October 9, 2012, three members of the Taliban stopped her school bus and shot Malala Yousafzai three times severely wounding her. 15-year-old Malala was airlifted to a Pakistani military hospital in Peshawar and transferred four days later to a hospital in Birmingham, England.

After she was shot, Yousafzai slowly recovered and revisited her advocacy which caused a global outpouring of support for her. She became incredibly popular for her firm beliefs of education for young girls, literally putting her life on the line, and visited New York to spoke at the United Nations on July 16, 2013, for her 16th birthday. In October 2014, she became the youngest along with Indian children’s right activist Kailash Satyarthi, to earn the Nobel Peace Prize. In her acceptance speech, she says “This award is not just for me. It is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change.”