“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced”
Sound familiar? I think all of us have heard this quote at some point one way or the other! This quote was said by a Pakistani advocate, who, in 2014, was the youngest person ever to receive a Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17. Malala Yousafzai was an advocate for girls’ rights to education when she was a child. Because of this, the Taliban issued death threats against her. She was shot on October 9th, 2012, while coming back from school. Fortunately, she survived and continued speaking about the importance of education.
Image Credit: The Education Magazine
Malala was one of the youngest education activists who gave a speech in 2013 to the United Nations and published her first book, I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood up For Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, co-written by Christina Lamb. Malala was born in Mingora, Pakistan, which was a popular tourist destination known for its summer festivals, but things started taking a turn in the area after the Taliban tried to take control.
Malala was just 11 years old when she began to blog for the BBC about living under the Taliban’s threats, using the name Gul Makai to hide her identity. However, she was revealed to be the BBC blogger in December of the same year.
Since the public platforms have been growing for the past few years, Malala continued to speak about the right of all females to an education. Her activism resulted in a nomination for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011. She was also awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize the same year.
When she found out about the death threats from the Taliban against her because of her activism, she was worried and scared about her father’s safety because he was an anti- Taliban activist, but they initially felt that they would not harm her because she was a child.
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Malala was just 15 years old when she was coming back home with her friends on a bus and a masked gunman boarded it and demanded everyone to know which girl was Malala. All her friends looked at her and the gunman immediately fired at her; the bullet hit her on the left side of her head, which travelled down her neck. She was in a very critical condition, so she was taken to a military hospital and was later shifted to England for further treatment.
Even though she was in a medically induced coma and required multiple surgeries, fortunately, she did not have any major brain damage. By March 2013, she was able to attend school again in Birmingham.
On the bright side, the shooting resulted in massive support for Malala. Unfortunately, the Taliban still considers her a target, although she is still a staunch advocate for the power of education. Malala gave a speech at the United Nations nine months after being shot, on her 16th birthday. She urged world leaders to change policies and said “the terrorists thought they would change our aims and stop our ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear, and hopelessness died. Strength, power, and courage were born.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon declared July 12th, Malala’s birthday, as “Malala Day” in honour of such a young leader’s activism to ensure education for everyone.