When I mentioned Malala Yousafzai’s name when discussing role models with my father, he asked me, “isn’t that the girl who got shot?” Well, she did get shot––and was able to get medical treatment and survive––but there is so much more to Malala than just that. She is the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and she has already written a memoir––and an excellent one at that. She has overcome immense adversity and recovered from a bullet wound to her head. She has advocated for gender equality and women’s education and continues to do so today. Malala is one of my role models, and she should be one of yours, too.
Credit: ABC 7 News
According to both her memoir and nobelprize.org, Malala blogged for the BBC when she was only 11 years old. She wrote under a pseudonym about the oppressive Taliban rule and constant violence––as well as her experience being afraid of going to school and having to stay home when they banned girls going to class. Her willingness to open up online about the difficult and frightening environment in which she was growing up shows incredible bravery and her strength in her convictions.
I admire Malala because she is a bookish feminist, and I aspire to be exactly the same. I admire her love for learning and her dedication to educating other women. By way of the Malala fund, her organization, you can start fundraisers, join her movement, and/or donate and help educate girls and young women all over the world. She stresses the importance of both the humanities (for example, reading and literature) as well as math and science, all equally important subjects that are in desperate need of more women. She is also passionate about her own education –– she, in fact, risked her life for it––and survived. Now, Malala is studying philosophy, politics, and economics at the University of Oxford. She has persevered immensely; her tenacity is truly inspiring. I admire her also because she wrote a 352-page memoir in a language that was not her first––and extremely well at that. In her memoir, I Am Malala, (which, by the way, she wrote when she was only 16) she described her native town of Swat and the surrounding areas that I felt like I could see it in vivid detail in my mind. She tells her story with candor and grace, and her enthusiasm for education and learning shines through.
I have also seen a few videos of her speaking at events and conferences, and I must say, she is a wonderful public speaker. When she speaks, she is articulate and has strong conviction––her intelligence and passion are evident and veritable. She always has something meaningful to say, and she has inspired people all over the world to be feminists, as we all should be.
And even despite all of these accomplishments at a young age, she is still very relatable. In I Am Malala, she talks about how her brother loves Nutella, and how she competed academically with a girl in her grade growing up. Though it is sometimes easy to forget that impressive people are just like us, Malala reminds us in subtle ways that she is our peer. She doesn’t patronize anyone––she both writes and speaks in a way that is both educated and gracious, but very accessible to all.
Malala Yousafzai is a powerful young woman. She inspires me to be an outspoken feminist, to encourage peace and kindness, and to aspire to make a difference in my community and someday the world. She is much more than “the girl who was shot”. She is a leader, a scholar, and an incredible feminist activist. There is so much to admire about Malala––and I hope that through this article you learned something new about her to admire.
Cover picture credit: United Nations