Malala: The Child Campaigner

The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and was Shot by the Taliban.

Prajwal Shali

One of the most inspirational books in the recent years has been authored by a teenager. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, Malala Yousufzai is a Child Rights and Women’s Rights activist. A girl who was shot in the head for speaking her mind, Malala is an epitome of courage and resilience, and hope to millions of young women like her.

Who Is Malala

‘I Am Malala’ The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Was Shot by the Taliban gives you an insight into Malala’s life and what she is today. It’s a memoir of a young girl’s continuing struggle and fight for every girl’s right to education. Malala Yousafzai born and brought up in Pakistan writes about the difficulties faced by young girls and women in her country who want to study. She exposes the double standards against women deep-rooted in her society.

Just like any ordinary girl, Malala loved the Twilight series, Rome & Juliet, Oliver Twist, the Ugly Betty show and Indian movies with its music and dance. However, her childhood hasn’t been a normal one. She lived in nation where political upheavals and uncertainties are a constant. A nation run by politicians and dictators. She watched Taliban attack her valley, kill thousands, blow up buildings especially schools, attack NGOs,basically silence the voices of dissent against them. Taliban doesn’t want girls to study or go to school. According to them they should always be in ‘purdah’. And so families are sacred to send their daughters to school.

In Her Father’s Footsteps

‘Malala’s book is an insight to her life and her upbringing, people and events that influenced her. From a very young age, Malala saw her father advocate for girls’ education.  Ziauddin Yousafzai, unlike other Pashtun men, was not saddened by the birth of a daughter. He names her ‘…after Malalai of Maiwand, the greatest heroine…’ of the Pashtuns. Ziauddin strongly supported education of young girls and was very forthright in his criticism of Taliban. He was already running a school even before Malala was born. Ziauddin’s fearlessness and activism is seen in his daughter Malala. She ‘had been his comrade in arm’ in his campaign for education. ‘He believed that lack of education was the root of all of Pakistan’s problems’. School was not just a place of learning, it gave them the power to dream – girls dreamt of becoming doctors, inventors, of achieving something in life. Gradually school also became a place of escape, ‘…a haven from the horrors outside’.

What Malala is today, a lot of credit goes to her parents’ upbringing. She narrates an incident where she stole from her friend. ‘At first stealing gave me a thrill, but that did not last long. Soon it became a compulsion. I did not know how to stop’. She was scolded and made to apologise to the friend. And from that day, she swore not to steal or lie. Her parents not only educated her but also instilled in her values of honesty and courage in the face of fear. Her father used to receive threats by the Taliban. She too remains undeterred in her cause for education.

The Girl Shot By Taliban

As she continued to campaign for girls’ education in Pakistan, she started to receive death threats from the Taliban. However, that didn’t deter her, ‘My feeling was nobody can stop death; it doesn’t matter if it comes from a Talib or cancer’.

While returning from school on 9th October, 2012, Malala was shot. She was just 14 years old. ‘…the bullet had entered through the side of my left eye where there was a scar, travelled eighteen inches down to my left shoulder and stopped there.’ Malala was in critical condition after the shooting. ‘It could have taken out my eye or gone into my brain. It was a miracle I was alive’. As she gained consciousness, we are told in the book, she wasn’t angry at the men who shot at her, ‘I had no thoughts of revenge’.

Malala underwent numerous surgeries in Pakistan & England. She has a small titanium plate in her skull and a cochlear implant. But she remains unfazed. ‘It doesn’t matter if I can’t smile or blink properly, ‘I’m still me, Malala. The important thing is God has given me my life.’ Malala has been living in UK since being shot at by the Taliban. Her family has also moved to Birmingham. She and her brothers go to the school there.

Global Campaign

The Taliban unknowingly made Malala famous when they shot her. Her crusade for girls’ education has now become international. The United Nations recognizes 10th November, a month after she was shot at, as Malala Day. She has received numerous awards including the Nobel Peace Prize 2014, United Nations Human Rights Prize in 2013 and the Mother Teresa Award 2012. This is her Speech at the United Nation on her 16th birthday.

Malala’s Mission

Malala’s mission is to ‘act decisively to educate girls and empower them to change their lives and communities’. She hopes her ‘story will inspire girls to raise their voices and embrace the power within themselves’. And so the Malala Fund has been set up. The Fund invests in the local communities that not only provide basic literacy, ‘but the tools, ideas and networks that can help girls find their voices and create and better tomorrow’.

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