MALALA: A Teen With A Cause

by Brigitte Perreault and Jean Palamar

“There’s a moment when you have to decide whether to be silent or stand up.” Malala Yousafzai

Malala was shot by the Taliban in 2012 simply for daring to go to school.
Malala Yousafzai is an educational campaigner from Swat Valley, Pakistan, and winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to her, along with Kailash Satyarthi, for their joint work in the field of children’s rights. Malala was born in 1997, in the Swat Valley in northern Pakistan, where she grew up. Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai named her after Malalai, a Pashtun heroine. Ziauddin, who has always loved learning, ran a school in Swat adjacent to the family's home. He was known as an advocate for education in Pakistan, which has the second highest number of out-of-school children in the world.

He became an outspoken opponent of the Taliban efforts to restrict education and stop girls from going to school. It is apparent now that his love for children and their equal rights to education was passed down to Malala.

Starting at the age of 10, with fervor and determination, Malala campaigned for the rights of girls to receive an education. Using a pseudonym, she wrote a blog for the BBC. The blog detailed her life under Taliban rule and her views on promoting education for girls. It is her hope that one day all children will receive the same amount and quality of education, and that girls’ education will no longer be left behind as an afterthought.

In 2009, Malala’s focus was to become (became becoming) an education activist. Malala shared her father’s passion for learning and loved going to school. (In 2009, as) Malala was 10 years old then, and as the Taliban’s hold on Swat intensified, Malala began writing the blog for the BBC Urdu service (Pakistani branch) about fears that she and her classmates shared about their school and education. These fears included her school being attacked and the increasing military activity in Swat.

As this went on, television and music were banned.

To exercise control, women were prevented from going shopping. That was when Ziauddin was told that his school had to close. Malala and her father received death threats, however they continued to speak out for the right to education. During that period, Malala was featured in a documentary made for The New York Times and was revealed as the author of the BBC blog.

In 2011, Malala received Pakistan's first National Youth Peace Prize and was nominated by Archbishop Desmond Tutu for the International Children's Peace Prize.

Soon, the young girl’s stand in politics and her fight for education gathered everyone’s attention. Unfortunately, that also meant the unwelcome attention of the Taliban. In response to Malala’s rising popularity and national recognition, Taliban leaders voted to kill her.

On October 9th 2012, as then 15-year-old Malala and her friends were travelling home from school, a masked Taliban gunman entered their school bus and asked for her by name.

When she was discovered, Malala was shot with a single bullet. The bullet went through her head, neck, and shoulder. During the attack, two of her friends were also injured.

Surviving the attack:

Thankfully, Malala survived the initial attack. However, she was in a critical condition, and she was moved to Birmingham in the United Kingdom for treatment at a hospital that specialises in military injuries. It wasn’t until three months later, in January of 2013, that she was finally discharged, by which time she had been joined by her family in the United Kingdom.

The Taliban's attempt to kill Malala received worldwide condemnation and led to protests across Pakistan. In the weeks after the attack, over 2 million people signed a right to education petition, and the National Assembly swiftly ratified Pakistan's first “Right To Free and Compulsory Education Bill.”

Malala Fund:
2013 was a busy year for Malala.

She became a global advocate for the millions of girls being denied a formal education because of social, economic, legal, and political factors. Malala and Ziauddin, determined to change the way education for girls was being handled, co-founded the
Malala Fund to bring awareness to the social and economic impact of girls' education. It is the goal of the Malala Fund to empower girls to stand up for what is theirs, to make changes for themselves, and to not be afraid to speak up for themselves.

Nobel Peace Prize:
Malala accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 2014 with Indian children's rights and education advocate Kailash Satyarthi. Malala contributed her $1.1 million prize money to financing the creation of a secondary school for girls in Pakistan.

Over 130 million girls are STILL missing out on an education because they have to work, are married early, lack access to school facilities, or have to care for younger siblings. This denies them their fundamental right to education.

Malala Fund
Programmes: Syrian Refugees

Tasneem, a Syrian refugee living in the heart of Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, gets a visit from Malala who comes to open a school for her and other Syrian girls like her.
Malala Fund empowers girls through quality secondary education to achieve their potential and inspire positive change in their communities.