Malala Yousafzai: Your New Hero

“I don’t care if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I am afraid of no one.” –Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai was born in Mingora, Pakistan on July 12, 1997. On October 9, 2012, the Taliban shot Malala in the head on her way to school. And she lived. Now, she devotes her life to Women’s Rights and Education. And she’s only 17. This is her story, and this is why she’s your new hero.

Mingora was a popular tourist location in Pakistan, but as Malala grew older, the Taliban began to move into and take control of the area, banning women from going to school. They began to attack all-girl’s schools in the area and Malala, at the age of 11, began to make public anti-Taliban speeches about how women deserve a right to education without persecution. In 2009, Malala ran a blog under the name “Gul Makai” for BCC about living under the Taliban’s threats to take away her education. In 2011, she was awarded both the International Children’s Peace Prize and the Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize. That same year, when she was 14, Malala and her family learned that the Taliban had issued a death threat against her. The following year, on her way to the school that her father—a fellow anti-Taliban activist—started, the Taliban boarded Malala’s bus and shot her in the head. She was flown to the United Kingdom for surgery and was put in a medically induced coma. She suffered no major brain damage and was back in school in England in March 2013. The same year, she wrote a book (I am Malala) and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize but didn’t win. She was nominated again in 2014. In October of this year, she won it. At just 17 years old, Malala is the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

“My mother always told me, ‘hide your face, people are looking at you’. I would reply, ‘It does not matter; I am also looking at them.” –Malala Yousafzai

Malala is a total, total badass. And the really humbling thing about her is, all she wants is an education—something that we, in America, have never ever been denied. People in her area are being killed every single day. She mentions in this interview with Jon Stewart, which definitely DIDN’T make me tear up, that the Taliban destroyed an electricity plant that powered the water sources for the whole town during Ramadan. These people already couldn’t eat, and now they couldn’t even drink water. She says that the Taliban uses fear and religion against the people of her area, Swat Valley. That is something that Americans cannot comprehend. Education here is something that is not only encouraged, it is expected and almost required. And, as I lay in bed calculating the probability of missing something important if I skip class (again), Malala and girls everywhere are fighting an enemy that will forever seem detached from us at Cal Poly and in America. So, ladies and gentlemen, in between classes, raise your voices with Malala for universal education, no matter who’s trying to prevent it, because, in her own words, “We cannot succeed when half of us are held back. We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave, to embrace the strength within themselves and realize their full potential.” Let’s kick some ass.