Age Is Just A Number - Malala Yousafzai

By Leslie Dawe

Age is just a number for the many young women who have spoken out about what they believe in. Naomi Wadler, 11, Emma Gonzalez, 17, Iris Fen Gillingham, 17, Autumn Peltier, 12, Malala Yousafzai, 11.

Malala Yousafzai is an activist who spoke out about the Taliban’s restriction of the education for young women as a teenager. The Taliban attempted to assassinate her when she was 15, shooting her three times with one of those bullets hitting behind her left eye. Instead of silencing her, the attempt made Malala’s message known to everyone in the world.

It was a miracle that she survived after being shot so close to the brain. In her recovery, she did not have proper care leading to infections and potentially fatal complications. Then, Malala was moved to the United Kingdom for surgery and the rest of her recovery.

Malala’s started to advocate for women’s education because her father is an educator and social activist who established the Khushal Girls High School and College, which Malala attended and received excellent marks. Her father encouraged her to follow in his footsteps and get her full education, and he is the main reason that Malala believed in her right to an education.

While in rule, the Pakistani Taliban enforced strict Islamic law; thus, they destroyed and shut down girls’ schools, stopping women and girls from having any major or active role in society. When the Taliban invaded Swat Valley, led by Maulana Fazlullah, in 2007, Malala and her family fled for their safety. But, they returned a few months later when the chaos had eased.

Malala Yousafzai began her campaign for her right to education at the young age of 11 years old when she gave her first speech on September 1st, 2008 during a protest of the her school's closing. Her speech, “How Dare the Taliban Take Away My Basic Right to Education?”, was published throughout Pakistan. By February 2009, she made a television appearance on, “Capital Talk”.

925bb364e36cd559357616b9e432c378.jpg

After she started speaking out, the Taliban received more and more backlash in Pakistan regarding their stance on education for women. The Taliban agreed to lift the restriction against the girls, allowing them to go back to school on the condition that they had to wear burqas, enveloping outer garments worn by women in some Islamic traditions to cover their bodies and faces in public.

Meanwhile, Malala continued to appear on television and became a global spokesperson for the women's education movement. She also wrote as a BBC young blogger. In October 2011, she was nominated by human rights activist Desmond Tutu for the International Children’s Peace Prize and in December of 2011 she was awarded Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize  which later became known as the National Malala Peace Prize.

Since Malala was shot, her story has taken over the world. A UN petition requiring that all children around the world be in school was created and signed in 2015. This led to Pakistan’s first Right to Education bill. In December 2012, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari launched a $10 million education fund in honour of Malala. Vital Voices Global Partnership also launched the Malala Fund which supports girls education all over the world.

Malala Yousafzai has been awarded many awards and recognized in magazines. The most significant of these happened in 2014 when she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace along with Kailash Satyarthi, recognizing their outstanding efforts for children’s rights.

Her age never held her back from getting her voice heard in the world. No matter how young or old you are, your voice matters.