World Icon: Malala Yousafzai
"There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others." While the average teenage girl is more concerned about her body image and social interactions, somewhere in Pakistan, a sixteen-year-old girl was more concerned with fighting for the education of young girls her age. This girl is Malala Yousafzai. Young Malala has managed to achieve in her short life, what most people won't in an entire lifetime. Her selflessness and ambition to make the world a better place is by all means special.
Malala is an activist for female education in Pakistani and the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate. She is known for her human rights activism especially the education of children and women. In her native Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan, the local militia, the Taliban, had banned girls from going to school. Her advocacy has received worldwide recognition and grown into an international movement.
Malala was born in July 1997 in Mingora Pakistan to a lower middle-class family. Her parents Tor Pekai and Zioauddin Yousafzai, who are Sunni Muslims of Pashtun ethnicity, could not afford money for a hospital delivery. Malala was therefore born at home with the help of neighbors. She was given the name Malala which means ‘grief-stricken'. She was named after Malalai, a famous woman warrior, and poet from Southern Afghanistan. She grew up in a small family of three children, her included, and two pet chickens. Malala was mostly educated by her father, a poet, school owner, and an educational activist who runs a chain of schools called the Khushi Public School.
Inspirations and Media Appearance
Growing up, Malala was inspired by Mohammed Jinna, a lawyer and founder of Pakistan. She also drew a lot of inspiration from Benazir Bhutto, the Pakistani Prime Minister whom she regards as a role model.
At the age of 12, she took a pseudonym identity and wrote a blog that detailed her life during the Taliban rule of the Swat. Her story paved the way for greater opportunities and the following summer, New York Times journalist Adam Ellick made a documentary film about her life during the Pakistani military intervention of her hometown.
In an interview, Malala expressed her dream to become a doctor when she grew up. Later, however, she changed her mind after her father encouraged her to use her fearlessness and strength to become a politician and have a greater impact on the society. Regardless of the lower position of women in her country, her father allowed her to discuss politics late into the night, an act that inspired Malala's confidence and desire to become more and do more.
Inspired by her role models, Muhammad Jinna and Benazir Bhutto, in 2008, Malala started publicly speaking on the issue of Education rights - rights that had been taken away by the Taliban. In one of her first speeches at a local press club in Pakistan, Malala asked her audience "How dare the Taliban to take away my right to get an education?" Her speech was covered by several media outlets throughout the region, spiraling her into the limelight.
Due to her solid stance against the Taliban, they issued a death threat against her. On October 9, 2012, a Taliban gunman boarded the bus she was taking home from school and shot her in the head.
In the days following the attack, Malala remained unresponsive and in a critical condition yet somehow her condition improved and she was transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham U.K. The murder attempt sparked national and international outrage and tremendous support from the international community. Instead of silencing her forever, the murder attempt became a blessing in disguise. It led to protests for a freer Pakistani Society.
Following the attack, more than 2 million people signed the right to education campaigns petition which led to the ratification of what would be the first Right to Education Bill in Pakistan. Malala rose to prominence and was invited for interviews all over the world. Activist Desmond Tutu of South Africa nominated her for International Children's Peace Prize.
Nine months following the attempt on her life, Malala gave a powerful speech at the United Nations. She highlighted her focus on education and women's rights. Her response to the attacks was that it has made her stronger, and more powerful than she had been before.
At Malala's United Nations speech, Ban Ki-Moon the Secretary-General, pronounced July 12th, Malala's birthday – Malala Day. He did this in honor of the young activist's fight for education for women and young children.
In October 2014, Mala became the youngest person in history to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. In a congratulatory speech by the Pakistan Prime Minister, he referred to Malala as the "pride of Pakistan."
Despite her young age and poor background, Malala has allowed nothing to come between her and her fight for a freer and better society. Her response to her attackers shows just how remarkable this young woman is when she says "I do not not want revenge on the Taliban, I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban". Her life is a clear indication that all things are possible.
American Sunglass recognizes Malala's contributions to make life beautiful for the people around her. She indeed is an icon!