People That Inspired Me In 2013: Malala Yousafzai


She is a Pakistani school pupil and education activist from the town of Mingora in the Swat District of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. She is known for her activism for rights to education and for women, especially in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. In early 2009, at the age of 11–12, Yousafzai wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC detailing her life under Taliban rule, their attempts to take control of the valley, and her views on promoting education for girls. The following summer, a New York Times documentary was filmed about her life as the Pakistani military intervened in the region, culminating in the Second Battle of Swat. Yousafzai rose in prominence, giving interviews in print and on television, and she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by South African activist Desmond Tutu.

On 9 October 2012, Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen while returning home on a school bus. In the days immediately following the attack, she remained unconscious and in critical condition, but later her condition improved enough for her to be sent to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, for intensive rehabilitation. On 12 October, a group of 50 Islamic clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwā against those who tried to kill her, but the Taliban reiterated its intent to kill Yousafzai and her father.

The assassination attempt sparked a national and international outpouring of support for Yousafzai. Deutsche Welle wrote in January 2013 that Yousafzai may have become “the most famous teenager in the world.” The United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown launched a UN petition in Yousafzai’s name, using the slogan “I am Malala” and demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015 – a petition which helped lead to the ratification of Pakistan’s first Right to Education Bill. In the 29 April 2013 issue of Time magazine, Yousafzai was featured on the magazine’s front cover and as one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World”. She was the winner of Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and was nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. Although Yousafzai was widely tipped to win the prize, it was awarded to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons; however, she was the youngest person (at age 16) and the first girl nominated for it.  On 12 July 2013, Yousafzai spoke at the UN to call for worldwide access to education, and in September 2013 she officially opened the Library of Birmingham. Yousafzai is the recipient of the Sakharov Prize for 2013. On 16 October 2013 the Government of Canada announced its intention that the Parliament of Canada confer Honorary Canadian citizenship upon Yousafzai.

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