The Full Picture: Malala, a global young voice for children's and women's rights

The Full Picture: Malala, a global young voice for children's and women's rights

Malala Yousafzai turned 19 today, July 12. 

 Cover credit:  IZ Quotes

Cover credit: IZ Quotes

She is a Pakistani activist for female education. She was born in 1997 in a northwestern province of Pakistan where she grew up. She comes from a Sunni Muslim family that manages a group of schools in the region.

Malala was educated by her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, a poet and educational activist himself. She started speaking about education rights in September 2008 at the age of eleven, when her father took her to Peshawar to speak at the local press club.

"How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?" was the question to her audience in a speech covered by newspapers and television channels throughout the region.

The extremists were, and they are, afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons.
— Malala Yousafzai, on July 12, 2013

In late 2008, the BBC Urdu website decided to ask a schoolgirl to blog anonymously about her life in Swat, where the Taliban's influence was growing. At the time, Taliban militants were taking over the Swat Valley, banning television, music, girls' education and basic women's rights. Yousafzai suggested his daughter Malala and editors at the BBC unanimously agreed.

During the summer 2009, journalist Adam B. Ellick made a New York Times documentary about Yousafzai’s life as the Pakistani military intervened in the region.

 U.S. President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughter Malia meet with Malala. Credit:  White House

U.S. President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughter Malia meet with Malala. Credit: White House

Her appeal in defense of girl student's rights rose in prominence, growing into an international movement. She started giving interviews in print and on television.

On Oct. 9, 2012, Malala was hit by a gunman with three shots while she was on her school bus in the northwest Pakistani district of Swat. After the attack, she remained unconscious and in critical condition for several days. As soon as her condition improved, she was sent to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England for intensive rehabilitation.

The assassination attempt raised international support for Yousafzai. United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown launched a UN petition in her name, demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015, an initiative that fostered the ratification of Pakistan's first Right to Education Bill.

For three consecutive years, Time Magazine featured Malala as one of "The 100 Most Influential People in the World.” She was the winner of Pakistan's first National Youth Peace Prize, and the recipient of the 2013 Sakharov Prize, which are awarded to individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights across the globe. In February 2014, she was also nominated for the World Children's Prize in Sweden.

That same year, Yousafzai was announced as co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize (along with Kailash Satyarthi), for her struggle against the suppression of young people and for the right of all children to get an education. At the age of 17, Malala has became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. In 2015, she was the subject of an Oscar-shortlisted documentary, He Named Me Malala.

On July 12, 2013, her 16th birthday, Yousafzai spoke at the headquarters of the United Nations to call for worldwide access to education. The organization declared the event "Malala Day,” as it was her first public speech since the attack, leading the first ever Youth Takeover of the United Nations with an audience of over five hundred young education advocates from all around the world.

Here is an abstract of her speech at United Nations Youth Assembly.

Watch the video below to learn about the core of her message.

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