Has anyone heard of Malala Yousafzai? She’s 17 years old and has survived a bullet to the head from a Taliban gunman, is a famous advocate for girls’ education worldwide, was named one of TIME magazine’s most influential people, won the European Parliament’s Sakharov prize for Freedom of Thought, won the Novel Peace Prize, and has published her autobiography, “I Am Malala.”
Let all of that sink in for about fifteen seconds.
Now, what had you accomplished by the age of 17? 18? 19? I don’t know about you, but my academic awards, accomplishments in sports, and feeble attempts at community volunteer work seem absolutely paltry in comparison. I’m going to say it. What have I been doing with my life? Nothing even close to what I could have done by now.
All that being said and major props going to Yousafzai, I am not trying to shame anyone into taking the next plane to India, where you can smuggle yourself into Pakistan, proclaim yourself an advocate for girls’ education, and invite the Taliban to shoot you in the face. Not my intention. That would make me pretty messed up. Rather, I think we all need to take a moment to recognize all that Yousafzai has accomplished en lieu of our own laxness, and aspire to somehow contribute to our world in such an inspirational, positive way.
Malala Yousafzai became a blogger for the BBC at the age of 11, documenting the growing influence of the Taliban in her hometown of Swat, Pakistan. Yousafzai particularly noted and criticized the Taliban’s desire to ban girls from receiving education, and their actions of destroying or closing down schools in the area. She was eventually targeted for her outspokenness in advocating girls’ education, and the Taliban attempted to execute her by sending a gunman onto her school bus and singling her out to be shot in the head. Miraculously, Yousafzai not only survived, moving to England with her family for medical treatment, but she continued on to fight for girls’ education worldwide and has received many commendations for her works and tenacity since. Indeed, the life-threatening event seems only to have tempered her into steel for as she stated while addressing the United Nations, on that day “weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”
The story of Yousafzai is truly inspiring, especially in context of the struggle for feminism and women’s rights. The Muslim world has long been looked at by the West as oppressive towards women, and here we have one young girl who is literally taking part in changing that world. Not only is she a powerfully outspoken activist for girls’ right to education worldwide, but she has created the Malala Fund, which supports the education of girls around the globe. All of this comes from one little girl in a little town in northern Pakistan, and I find it truly inspiring and hopeful for the cause of gender equality worldwide.
Akpan, Nsikan. “What Will Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize Mean For Girls’ Education?.” NPR. NPR, 15 Octob 2014. Web. 27 Oct 2014. <https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCAQFjAA&url=http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/10/15/355160473/what-will-malalas-nobel-peace-prize-mean-for-girls-education&ei=ur5OVK–LqnD8QGTuYGgDA&usg=AFQjCNEg-4TCU9AwfrlbMCG1hjxULjegww>.
-, -. “Malala Yousafzai’s Speech at the United Nations.”UN Global Education First Initiative. Global Education First Initiative, n.d. Web. 27 Oct 2014. <http://www.globaleducationfirst.org/2525.htm>.
-, -. “Profile: Malala Yousafzai.” BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 27 Oct 2014. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-23241937>.