“How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” 11-year old Malala Yousafzai asked on Pakistani TV back in 2009.
Born on July 12, 1997 in Mongora, Pakistan, Malala learnt the importance of education early in life. Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, ran a girls’ school in her village in Swat Valley. Radical terrorist regime, Taliban, eventually began to infiltrate the region, enforcing rules such as a ban on television and music. Eventually, they prohibited girls from going to schools. In June 2008, Malala said goodbye to her classmates who were prevented from coming to her father’s school. She continued going to school and began to voice her opinion on her blog. She eventually got the opportunity to contribute to BBC’s Urdu Language section, asserting the importance of educating the girl child.
The local media noticed Malala’s courage and invited her to speak on national channels. On the morning of October 9, 2012, 15-year-old Yousafzai was shot three times by a Talibani militant inside her school bus. After months of surgery in Birmingham, England, Malala returned to school in March 2013. In her speech at the United Nations on July 12, 2013 in New York, she said, ““Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One teacher, one book, one pen, can change the world.”
Continuing to speak for girls’ education
Through the Malala Fund and several other humanitarian efforts, Malala, now a graduate from Oxford University, continues to fight for girls’ education. She has worked closely with organizations and volunteers in Afghanistan, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey.
In her attempt at taking the issue of girls’ education to the mainstream psyche, Malala teamed up with Apple+ TV in 2021 for producing documentaries focussed on women and children. Speaking about her vision behind the collaboration, Malala shared, “I believe in the power of stories to bring families together, forge friendships, build movements, and inspire children to dream.” Her Instagram handle has now become her preferred platform to communicate and influence people of her generation.
Impact of Covid-19 on girls’ education
During a virtual interview with a local channel in Dubai, Malala expressed her concern about the gender disparity in educating children in the midst of the pandemic. She said that many girls would be taken out of schools due to reasons related to the Covid-19 in countries where poor families would marry their girls off for financial reasons. A report from Arab News quoted her as saying, “One of the activists that we support in Nigeria started radio lessons during the pandemic, to keep children engaged in education and learn from home. In Pakistan, the activists have worked on coming up with mobile apps and providing educational lessons through national television.
Apart from winning several humanitarian awards including the Nobel Prize for Peace (2014), Malala continues to help and empower children and women around the world.