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Malala: How a 17 year-old Teenager Became a World Icon

Malala Yousafzai is only 17 years old, but she is already an active advocate for education and peace in her country. In 2013, she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for speaking out about her right and the right of all women to an education, and was nominated again in March of this year, being the youngest person to date to have been nominated for this award.

Malala was born on July 12th, 1997 in Mingora, Afghanistan. When Malala was young, Mingora was a popular tourist destination for its summer festivals. But as the Taliban tried to take control of the country, the area began to change. The movement put strict restrictions on women receiving an education. They began to attack girls’ schools. Malala recognized that this had to be stopped. She gave a speech in September of 2008 called, “How Dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” In 2009, she began blogging for the BBC about living under the threats of the Taliban, using the fake name “Gul Makai” to hide her identity but when she was revealed to be the blogger in December of 2009, she started to be targeted by the Taliban.

Malala Yousafzai

In 2011, her speeches and activism resulted in her being nominated for The International Children’s Peace Prize and awarded Pakistan’s national Youth Peace Prize. But during this year she and her family also learned that the Taliban had issued a death threat against her. Malala’s family thought that the Taliban wouldn’t harm a child but when Malala boarded the bus to go home from school on October 9th, 2012, a gunman boarded and fired at her three times, one shot hitting her in the side of the head. The bullet travelled down her neck into her shoulder.

Malala Yousafzai

She was flown to a military hospital in Peshawar where she was put into a medically-induced coma. A portion of her skull was removed to treat her brain, which was swelling. For further treatment, she was transferred to Birmingham, England, where she underwent multiple surgeries, including repair of a facial nerve to fix the paralyzed left side of her face. Fortunately, she had suffered no major brain damage. On the 12th of October a group of 50 Islamic clerics issued a fatwa against those who tried to kill her, but the Taliban still announced its desire to kill her.

The news of the shooting resulted in a sudden great amount of support for Malala, and she continued her efforts to bring the opportunity for education to girls in Pakistan and children everywhere who didn’t have education and needed to be spoken for. On the 29th of April, 2013, Malala was featured on the front cover of Time magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential in the World”. On her 16th birthday, she gave a speech at the UN in support of worldwide access to education. On October 13th, 2013 she released an autobiography entitled “I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Was Shot By The Taliban.”

On her 17th birthday, just few days ago, Malala was in Nigeria to lend her supports to the families of the abducted school girls who were kidnapped by members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect.

Although Malala should have resentment towards the Taliban for their actions against her, she instead expressed that she would like to reach an understanding with them. Her desire for children to be allowed to have an education extends to all children, including the children of members of the Taliban. She said, “I used to think that a Talib would come, and he would just kill me. Then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do, Malala?’ I would reply Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’ But then I said ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there will be no difference between you and the Talib.’ You must not treat others with cruelty, and that much harshness. You must fight others, but through peace, and through dialogue, and through education. Then I said, ‘I’ll tell him how important education is, and I even want education for your children as well.’ And I’ll tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.”

Although she is only 17, she has already expressed ideas similar to Mahatma Gandhi in protesting peacefully, and has already made a difference in her country’s politics and even the views of the world on the importance of education for children who are kept from it.

For more info and to learn how you can make a difference too visit Malala’s website.

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