Malala Yousafzai (Pashto: ملاله یوسفزۍ ; born 12 July 1997) is a Pashtun student from the town of Mingora in Swat District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, and is internationally known for being a children's rights and women's activist. At age 13, she gained notability for championing the cause of the people of Swat by blogging for the BBC under the pseudonym Gul Makai about the atrocities of the Tehrik-i-Taliban regime. Yousafzai has since been nominated for several international awards, and is the recipient of Pakistan's first National Peace Prize. She was jointly awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize with Kailash Satyarthi, and is the youngest ever recipient of any Nobel Prize.
Malala is the daughter of a poet, education activist, and school headmaster Ziauddin Yousafzai and his wife Tor Pekai. She was named after Malalai of Maiwand (1861-1880), a Pashtun poet and patriot. She grew up in Mingora, the largest city in Pakistan's Swat Valley with her two younger brothers Atal and Khushal. Ziauddin Yousafzai administered an all-girl private school and would become her biggest influence on educational activism.
Blogging for the BBC
After the Pakistani Taliban captured the Swat Valley region in late 2007 (First Battle of Swat), and began murdering policemen and musicians, burning television sets, DVDs and CDs, and impelling women and girls into domestic isolation in the region, Yousafzai was invited to write a blog for the BBC's Urdu language service website under the pseudonym Gul Makai ('Face like a flower') about the surrounding chaos of the time, including the fears of her classmates that their education would be abruptly stopped. The blog grew in popularity, a documentary Class Dismissed: Malala's Story (2009) and interviews followed, and she gained a national following. The school was shut down. The Pakistani Army moved into the region to regain control during the Second Battle of Swat in 2009, and Yousafzai's family was displaced and separated when the town of Mingora was evacuated. After weeks of fighting, the Pakistani military eventually pushed the Taliban from out of the cities in the Swat Valley and into the countryside, the family was then allowed to return home. Initially studying to become a doctor, Yousafzai developed a desire to establish her own political party and a vocational institute for marginalised girls in her area.
Her efforts were recognised by the then prime minister, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, who awarded Yousafzai the country's first National Peace Award and a reward of about $US5300 after she missed out on winning the International Children's Peace Prize for which she was nominated in 2011. The Dutch international children's advocacy group KidsRights Foundation included Yousafzai as one of five nominees worldwide for the honour, the first Pakistani girl ever nominated for the award. She was the eventual runner-up. Yousafzai was appointed the 2012 NYA Child Ambassador and addressed the National Youth Assembly (NYA) at the Pakistan National Council for the Arts in Islamabad on 22 January 2012. Citing the examples of Thomas Edison and Stephen Hawking, Yousafzai stated that 'these people faced hurdles but they reinvented themselves. So don't let excuses get the better of you'. In her honour, the Government Girls Secondary School, Mission Road, in Mingora was renamed the Malala Yousufzai Government Girls Secondary School.
By the age of 14, Yousafzai had aroused the ire of the Islamic fundamentalists with her public campaign to preserve the right of local girls to go to school. On 9 October 2012, two Taliban gunmen ambushed Yousafzai's school bus. While one man was distracting the driver, another, face hidden by a peaked cap and handkerchief, clambered on to the tailboard of the Toyota van, demanded to know who Malala Yousafzai was, and fired three shots at point-blank range, one of which went through her left eye socket. Two girls sitting next to her, Kainat Riaz and Shazia Ramzan, were also wounded. The bullet that entered her head severed a facial nerve and sent bone fragments into the membrane surrounding her brain. Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan claimed responsibility on behalf of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Yousafzai was rushed into intensive care at a military hospital in Peshawar where doctors removed part of her skull to relieve the intracranial pressure. She was placed on a ventilator and the next, critical stage, of her treatment resulted in her being flown under tight security to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England. Yousafzai was in a coma for six days, then made a gradual recovery after weeks of therapy but her face remains slightly disfigured on her left side.
As a result of the attack, Yousafzai and her family were forced to relocate to Birmingham for safety reasons. In January 2013, Ziauddin Yousafzai was appointed by the Pakistan government as an education attache for three years at their Birmingham consulate. Kainat Riaz and Shazia Ramzan also left Pakistan for asylum in England. Malala is now completing her secondary education at the Edgbaston High School for Girls in Birmingham.. Yousafzai has publicly stated her desire to return to the Swat Valley sometime in the future.
United Nations address
Yousafzai was invited to address the United Nations assembly, which included 4000 young people, on her 16th birthday on 12 July 2013. The event was designated by the UN as Malala Day. It was her first public speech since the 2012 assassination attempt, and received international media coverage:
Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution.
During the speech, Yousafzai was symbolically wearing a pink shawl that had once belonged to assassinated former Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto. Yousafzai also presented UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with a petition in support of 57 million children who are prevented from going to school, calling for 'a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism'. Time magazine added her name to on its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
On 6 October 2013, the Pakistani Taliban announced they that would try to kill her again if they found her.
I Am Malala
On 8 October 2013, Yousafzai's autobiography was published entitled I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, which tells of her childhood in a repressed society struggling to come to terms with modernity, and her journey to the world stage. Yousafzai narrated how she would go to school disguised in everyday clothes, hiding her books (by Jane Austen and Stephenie Meyer amongst others) under her shawl to avoid suspicion of the Taliban.
Yousafzai on 10 October 2013 was awarded the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov human rights prize. She was widely tipped to win the Nobel Peace Prize, making her the youngest recipient of that award, but was overlooked instead with the award going to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
On 11 October 2013, Yousafzai met with US president Barack Obama and first lady in the White House Oval Office, where the president signed a proclamation to mark 11 October as the International Day of the Girl. The proclamation says in part that 'on every continent, there are girls who will go on to change the world in ways we can only imagine, if only we allow them the freedom to dream'. She also spoke at a World Bank event and was scheduled to speak at a book event at the Sidwell Friends School, which Obama's daughters attended.
Yousafzai was invited to meet Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip on 18 October 2013, for the Commonwealth Universities and Education Reception at Buckingham Palace. Academics and teachers will be among the guests at the event.
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