The fresh perspective and energy of young hearts and minds has often led to inventions and efforts that have changed the world. This is one in a series of articles profiling people who have done just that before their 18th birthday. Our hope is that they will remind you that because of continual progress in education and technology, today’s teens have amazing power and potential to make our lives better in so many ways.
Malala Yousafzai is changing the world in inspiring ways. Born on July 12, 1997, in Mingora, Pakistan, Malala eventually attended a school that her father had founded. Her hometown soon became a target of the Taliban, which, in attempts to take control of the town, began attacking schools for girls. These attacks prompted Malala’s 2008 speech titled, “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” Malala quickly became a target of the Taliban and in 2012 was nearly killed by a gun shot wound to the head. Malala has survived gunfire, fear, and oppression to become one of the most well-known teenagers in the world.
Though her convictions almost cost her her life, Malala continues to be an advocate for world-wide access to education.
Awards and accomplishments:
- Established the Malala Fund in October of 2012 with the mission to break the cycle of poverty and empower girls through education
- International Children’s Peace Prize– Awarded by the Kidsrights Foundation, September 2013
- Ambassador of Conscience Award- Awarded by Amnesty International, September 2013
- Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought- Awarded by the European Parliament, October 2013
- Co-wrote I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban with British journalist Christina Lamb, published in October 2013 in the United States.
- Nobel Peace Prize– Awarded by The Norwegian Nobel Committee, October 2014
- Named One of the 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014 by Time Magazine
What Malala has taught us:
- Malala told CNN that the terrorists are misusing the name of Islam for their own personal benefits. She said, “I think they haven’t studied Islam yet, they haven’t studied Quran yet, and they should go and they should learn Islam…I think that they should think of these girls as their own sisters. How can one imprison his own sisters and treat them in such a bad way?” Along with her belief in the Golden Rule, Malala teaches us that we must be tolerant of other cultures and religious beliefs and understand that terrorists are not a true representation of the religion that they claim to follow.
- During an appearance on The Daily Show in October of 2013, Yousafzai explained to Jon Stewart, “If you hit a Talib… then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty … You must fight others through peace and through dialogue and through education.” Jon Stewart was speechless.
- In Malala’s July 2013 speech to the UN General Assembly, she shared, “The wise saying, ‘The pen is mightier than the sword.’ It is true. The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them.” Wisdom and education is power that should not be taken for granted.
While Malala’s accomplishments and influence may seem intimidating, her activism started by her perseverance of what she considered to be an inherent right. U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, described her as “a brave and gentle advocate of peace who through the simple act of going to school became a global teacher.”
Have the ways in which Malala Yousafzai is changing the world inspired you? Do you have a cause that has stemmed from what you believe to be a basic human right? Share in the comments below, and be inspired by Malala’s unwavering courage, persistence, and love for humankind.