Inspiring Thursday: Malala Yousafzai

“I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not. It is the story of many girls.”

Malala Yousafzai was born in 1997 in Pakistan. Her father, who has an enormous influence on her, was a teacher at local school. Malala attended this school and became very passionate about her education. When the Taliban began imposing strict Islamic law, destroying or shutting down girls’ schools, banning women from any active role in society, and carrying out suicide bombings, Malala, only 11 years old, gave her first speech titled “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” After that she began blogging for the BBC about living under the Taliban and their threats to deny her an education. Although she blogged using a pseudonym, in the end her real name was revealed.

Immediately, she started to receive threats from Taliban, which later culminated in a Taliban attack. In October 2012, on her way home from school, a masked gunman boarded her school bus and shot her on the left side of her head. She woke up from coma 10 days later in Birmingham, England. She underwent multiple surgeries, including repair of a facial nerve to fix the paralyzed left side of her face. Fortunately, she had suffered no major brain damage.

The shooting resulted in massive support for Malala, which continued during her recovery. After the recovery, she continued her education in the United Kingdom and became an advocate for education and women´s rights. In 2013, she gave a speech at the United Nations, where she urged world leaders to change policies to provide education and women´s rights. Moreover, in 2014 she received the Nobel Peace Prize at just 17 years old and became the youngest-ever Nobel laureate. She was also appointed as a U.N. Messenger of Peace to promote girls´ education which is the highest honour given by the United Nations, and was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

In 2014, Malala and her father, who has been her ally since the beginning, established The Malala Fund, “a charity dedicated to giving every girl an opportunity to achieve a future she chooses.” The Malala Fund supports the education in developing countries and speeds up progress towards girls’ secondary education around the world.

In 2020, Malala graduated from Oxford University with a degree in philosophy, politics, and economics.

Although, Malala´s life has not been easy, she overcame every obstacle and work hard for all girls out there, because as she said: “If one man can destroy everything, why can’t one girl change it?”

Written by Mária Trubanová, WAVE Intern