“The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born … I am not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I’m here to speak up for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists.”
Malala Yousafzai was born on the 12th of July, 1997 in Mingora, Pakistan located in the county’s Swat Valley. She lived with her two younger brothers, her parents, Ziauddin and Tor Pekai.Yousafzai was educated majorly by her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who is a poet, school owner, and an educational activist himself. Malala attended one of the schools founded by the father. After the Taliban began attacking girls’ schools in Swat, Malala’s father took her to Peshawar, Pakistan where she gave a speech at the local press club, in September 2008. The title of her talk was, “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” Yousafzai asked her audience in a speech covered by newspapers and television channels throughout the region.
In late 2008, Aamer Ahmed Khan of the BBC Urdu website and his colleagues discussed a novel way of covering the Taliban’s growing influence in Swat. They decided a good way of going about it was to get a student from that area to blog about her experience anonymously. Through their correspondent, they got into contact with a local school teacher but were unable to find willing students because of the danger involved. Yousafzai suggested his own daughter, 11-year-old Malala who was in 7th grade at the time. At the time, Taliban militants led by Maulana Fazlullah were taking over the Swat Valley, banning television, music, girls’ education and women from going shopping. Many were afraid, yet Malala and her family rose up to the challenge. In early 2009, Yousafzai began blogging for the BBC about living under the Taliban’s threats to deny her an education. In order to hide her identity and keep her safe, she used the name Gul Makai, a name taken from a character in a Pashtun folktale. The blog records Yousafzai’s thoughts during the First Battle of Swat, as military operations take place, fewer girls show up to school, and finally, her school shuts down.
HERE IS ONE THE ENTRIES:“I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taliban. I have had such dreams since the launch of the military operation in Swat. My mother made me breakfast and I went off to school. I was afraid going to school because the Taliban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools. Only 11 pupils attended the class out of 27. The number decreased because of Taliban’s edict. My three friends have shifted to Peshawar, Lahore and Rawalpindi with their families after this edict. Malala Yousafzai, 3 January 2009 BBC blog entry.”
In Mingora, the Taliban had set an edict that no girls could attend school after 15 January 2009. The group had already blown up more than a hundred girls’ schools. The following day, Yousafzai also read for the first time excerpts from her blog that had been published in a local newspaper. After the ban, the Taliban continued to destroy schools in the area.
In February 2009, girls’ schools were still closed. In solidarity, private schools for boys had decided not to open until 9 February, and notices appeared saying so. After boys’ schools reopened, the Taliban lifted restrictions on girls’ primary education, where there was co-education. Girls-only schools were still closed. Yousafzai wrote that only 70 pupils attended, out of 700 pupils who were enrolled.
On 18 February, local Taliban leader Maulana Fazlulla announced on his FM radio station that he was lifting the ban on women’s education, and girls would be allowed to attend school until exams were held on 17 March, but they had to wear burqas. By the 1st of March, attendance at Yousafzai class was up to 19 of 27, but the Taliban were still active in the area. Only two days later, Yousafzai wrote that there was a skirmish between the military and Taliban, and the sounds of mortar shells could be heard: “People are again scared that the peace may not last for long. Some people are saying that the peace agreement is not permanent, it is just a break in fighting”. With a growing public platform, Yousafzai continued to speak out about her right, and the right of all women, to an education. Her blog ended on 12March, 2009.
Her activism resulted in a nomination for the International Children’s Peace Prize in October 2011. She was nominated by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a South African activist. She was the first Pakistani girl to be nominated for the award. The announcement said, “Malala dared to stand up for herself and other girls and used national and international media to let the world know girls should also have the right to go to school”, but she didn’t win. Her public profile rose even further when she was awarded Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize two months later in December.On 19 December 2011, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani awarded her the National Peace Award for Youth. The prime minister directed the authorities to set up an IT campus in the Swat Degree College for Women at Yousafzai’s request, and a secondary school was renamed in her honor.By 2012, Yousafzai was planning to organize the Malala Education Foundation, which would help poor girls go to school.
As Yousafzai became more recognized, the dangers facing her became more acute. Death threats against her were published in newspapers and slipped under her door. When she was 14, Malala and her family learned that the Taliban had issued a death threat against her. Though Malala was frightened for the safety of her father—an anti-Taliban activist—she and her family initially felt that the fundamentalist group would not actually harm a child. On October 9, 2012, on her way home from school, a man boarded the bus Malala was riding in and demanded to know which girl was Malala. When her friends looked toward Malala, her location was given away. The gunman fired at her, hitting Malala in the left side of her head; the bullet then traveled down her neck. Two other girls were also injured in the attack. The shooting left Malala in critical condition, so she was flown to a military hospital in Peshawar. A portion of her skull was removed to treat her swelling brain. To receive further care, she was transferred to Birmingham, England. She came out of coma by 17 October 2012 and was discharged by 3 January 2013.
The assassination attempt received worldwide media coverage and produced an outpouring of sympathy and anger. On 12 July 2013, Yousafzai’s 16th birthday, she spoke at the UN to call for worldwide access to education. The UN dubbed the event “Malala Day”. It was her first public speech since the attack,leading the first ever Youth Takeover of the UN, with an audience of over 500 young education advocates from around the world. She wrote: “Malala day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights.”
She has also written an autobiography, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, which was released in October 2013. Unfortunately, the Taliban still considers Yousafzai a target and she has received a number of criticisms but she still keeps going on. She recently came to Nigeria to talk to the President about placing priority on finding the Chibok girls.
There are many more to write about this incredible young woman but I will stop here. I won’t bother to highlight lessons from her story. The lessons are obvious to anyone that reads about this brave girl. I hope we learn from her and stand up rigidly for what is true and right. And like her, I believe so much in the power Education has so please, take it seriously.
Please never keep quiet about the things that matter. Talk!!! write!!! sing!!! Just make sure you don’t keep quiet please! sources: Wikipedia and Biography.com