The Taliban took control of Swat, Pakistan when Malala Yousafzai was ten years old. They condemned education for girls and enforced their severe version of Islamic law with brutality. Many girls had already been deprived of education, their culture deeming it unnecessary for the role society had reserved for them: to bear children. But Malala's father dedicated his life to academia, and she inherited a thirst for education that would not be stopped by fear. She wrote a diary for BBC Urdu using the pseudonym Gul Makai, chronicling life under the Taliban. She volunteered for the project after the girl initially chosen withdrew because of the danger.
Girls were officially banned from school when Malala was twelve. Distraught, she started advocating for education through any outlet available, including television interviews and documentaries that did not offer the safety of anonymity. The ban was lifted for girls up to age ten but Malala went anyway, hiding books under her shawl and pretending to be younger than she was. One afternoon on the ride home from school, the van came to an unexpected stop. Two armed men entered the van, asked for Malala, and shot her in the head.
Malala has found strength in her extraordinary recovery and purpose for what she considers her second life. She co-founded The Malala Fund to raise global awareness to the social and economic impact of girls' education. Malala is the youngest Nobel laureate and youngest United Nations Messenger of Peace. Her memoir, I am Malala, is a New York Times Best Seller. But Malala considers herself an ordinary girl, bickering with her younger brothers and studying between interviews and meetings.
She does not know what her future holds but her fight for education, equality, and peace will most assuredly continue. - Kelly Longhurst
Photo Credit : David Levene/The Guardian