In a recent poll, Kettle readers voted Malala Yousafzai as their number 1 favourite woman of all time, taking nearly 30% of all the votes cast.
Malala is a human rights and female education activist and the youngest person ever to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. She rose to fame when as a 12 year old girl, she stood up to the Taliban, who at the time were occupying Swat, the region of Pakistan in which she lived. This single act would have catastrophic consequences and would propel her into the international limelight.
Like most girls, Malala lived a normal life, enjoyed being a teenager and attending the school that her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai founded. In September 2008, when the Taliban was attacking girls’ schools in Swat, Malala gave a speech to the local press club in Peshawar, with the title: “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education.” She also started to write a blog about life under Taliban rule, to let the world know what was happening. Needless to say, the Taiban was none too pleased that an 11 year old girl was exposing its regime and its destruction of local schools.
Malala’s assassination attempt
On 9 October 2012 Malala was targeted for an assassination attempt by the Taliban whilst she was on her school bus in Swat, Northwest Pakistan. She was just 15 years old when the Taliban boarded the bus, demanded to know who Malala was and then shot her three times – including once in the head. The attack left Malala unconscious and fighting for her life. However when her condition stabalised some days later, she was transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham for rehabilitation.
The world was understandibly outraged by the attack. US President Barack Obama shared his feelings of the attack as: “reprehensible, disgusting and tragic.”
— Nasir Jones (@Nas) October 16, 2012
— Ewan McGregor (@mcgregor_ewan) October 11, 2012
Since the attack, Malala has remained and studied in Birmingham – receiving some amazing GCSE results, including six A*s and four A grades. She also marked her 16th birthday by addressing the UN during its first ever youth takeover, to talk about the importance of education.
“The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born.”
Back in January 2013, the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle wrote that Malala may be the most famous teenager in the world. In 2015 it seems unlikely that she will be relenquishing this position any tme soon.
Nobel Peace Prize
At the end of 2014, Malala was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the youngest person ever to receive the esteemed accolade. The Norwegian Nobel Committee said:
Despite her youth, Malala Yousafzay [sic] has already fought for several years for the right of girls to education, and has shown by example that children and young people, too, can contribute to improving their own situations. This she has done under the most dangerous circumstances. Through her heroic struggle she has become a leading spokesperson for girls’ rights to education.
Three years since the attack, Malala continues to champion education. In partnership with her Father she founded The Malala Fund, a charity that aims to “raise girls’ voices and ensure every girl has access to a quality secondary education.“
“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child and one teacher can change the world.”
There is a book that tells her story: I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban and the film, He named me Malala is due to go on general release in a few weeks time.[video:https://youtu.be/vE5gSHJkusU]
In an age of selfies, Kardashians, vanity and consumption, it is refreshing to see such an intelligent, brave and passionate young woman, standing up for those who have little or no voice. A woman who had the courage to voice her beliefs even though they nearly cost her her life. A woman who has above all, put the needs of others before the needs of her own.
We thank you, Malala.