Malala Yousafzai (1997- )
At seventeen Malala Yousafzai became the youngest ever Nobel Prize winner for her work in support of education for all girls. She was born July 12, 1997, in the Swat District of northwest Pakistan to a Sunni Muslim family. Her father Ziauddin Yousafzai was an education advocate himself and ran a private girls school in their village. In her early years Yousafzai attended the school.
Encouraged by her father, Yousafzai, at the age of eleven, began writing an anonymous blog for the BBC. She wrote under the byline of “Gul Makai” about her views on education and life under the threat of the Taliban. Yousafzai continued to write as the Taliban took control of the area and issued edicts banning television and music, banning women from going shopping and limiting women’s education. Many girls schools were blown up and consequently pupils stayed home for fear of the threat of harm. Yousafzai and her father began receiving death threats for their outspoken views.
In 2012, Yousafzai’s story was featured in a New York Times documentary. When her identity was revealed, the Taliban issued a fatwa (an Islamic religious decree) against her and her work and calling for her death. On October 9, 2012, while on the bus going home from school, Yousafzai was shot in the head by a masked Taliban gunman.
Her father was convinced she would die although she survived the initial shooting. Yousafzai’s vital organs were shutting down; she was in a coma; and she developed an infection. On October 15, she was transported to Birmingham, England, to a hospital for treating military injuries. She responded well to treatment there and, after a few days, came out of the coma. On January 3, 2013, she was discharged from the hospital and moved to a temporary home in West Midlands, England. By the time she had recovered, she had become an international symbol for children’s rights to education.
In her own words, this is how she explains her mission and life’s work.
“It was then I knew I had a choice. I could live a quiet life or I could make the most of this new life I had been given. I determined to continue my fight until every girl could go to school.”
“With my father, who has always been my ally and inspiration, I established Malala Fund, a charity dedicated to giving every girl an opportunity to achieve a future she chooses. In recognition of our work, I received the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2014 and became the youngest- ever Nobel laureate.”
Yousafzai entered the University of Oxford in 2018 to study philosophy, politics and economics. She graduated in 2020. Today she travels the world to meet girls fighting poverty, wars, child marriage and gender discrimination. Through Malala Fund’s Education Champion Network they invest in developing educators and activists.