In 2012, a Taliban extremist boarded the bus Malala Yousafzai was riding on her way home. He asked, “Who is Malala?” before shooting the 15-year-old schoolgirl. Yousafzai suffered a bullet wound to her head and received medical treatment in Britain.
Yousafzai and her family have remained in Britain since. Recently, they returned to their hometown in Pakistan after six years, reuniting with friends and family. The visit was a surprise. Their arrival to the city of Mingora in the Swat Valley was under heavy security.
The Taliban are no longer in Swat, but Yousafzai’s mission for education for girls is not mirrored by some Pakistanis. A campaign against her was launched on social media following her return. During her four-day visit, Yousafzai met with the Prime Minister and attended a reception at his office. Yousafzai described her return to her hometown “like a dream.”
Meet Malala Yousafzai
The Taliban took control of Swat in 2007. The following year, the Taliban banned girls from going to school. Under the Taliban regime, beauty parlors and playing music was banned as well. Harsh punishments were enforced on citizens.
Malala Yousafzai was a target for the Taliban as she wrote a blog for BBC under a pen name about her life under the Taliban regime. She had also made many public appearances advocating for education for girls. Yousafzai’s efforts and activism earned her a Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. In addition, she also wrote a bestselling memoir - I am Malala.
Following her recovery, Yousafzai tirelessly continued her advocacy, from talks with Queen Elizabeth to confronting President Obama about drone strikes. Today, she studies politics, philosophy, and economics at Oxford University.
One Child Can Change the World
Yousafzai is in a unique position – not only is she a student at Oxford University but along with homework and deadlines, she also campaigns for a girl’s right to education.
Yousafzai has been in talks with Apple to grant 10,000 girls a secondary school education via her Malala Fund. 130 million girls are not in schools, and this is something the Malala Fund hopes to combat by giving girls quality education. The Malala Fund operates in priority areas such as India, Nigeria, and countries with Syrian refugees.
One of her efforts is pledging to raise $500 million for the 300,000 Syrian refugees living in Lebanon, and opening a school. Although educating girls is one of the bridges to equality, Yousafzai has also noted that during her stay in Britain problems like equal pay, sexual harassment and the way women are portrayed in media are areas of concern. Let us heed by Malala’s words of inspiration, “one child, one teacher, one book, one pen, can change the world.”
Sources: NYTimes, Washington Post, Time, Guardian, AlJazeera, Malala.org, Wikipedia