10 Things We Love About Malala
Written By Maddy Crehan
Just like the legend of Malalai, Malala Yousafzai is a young rebel hero. Her determination to receive an education in Pakistan led to her being shot by the Taliban. But she survived. And in the years since her recovery, she has become one of the world’s greatest advocates for girls’ right to an education. Her story of defiance is a lesson to us all.
Globally, over 31 million primary school aged girls are not in school. Malala seeks to change that. Her awe-inspiring passion for learning and justice has captivated the world, as shown in the film He Named Me Malala.
To celebrate Malala Day on the 12th of July (Malala’s birthday), we’re looking back at our fave 10 incredible facts you might not know about the young hero:
1. She is named after a feminist hero
Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, named her after Malalai, an Afghan heroine of the second Anglo-Afghan war. Malala speaks very highly of her father stating, “He believes in women’s rights. He believes in equality and he calls himself a feminist.” This is very clear in his name choice for his only daughter Malala.
2. She is an Emma Watson fan
At the recent premiere of He Named Me Malala, the young advocate revealed that Emma Watson inspired her to embrace the term “feminist”. The two activists opened the film festival with a Q&A in which Malala referred to Emma Watson’s HeForShe Speech at the UN. Malala told Emma, “I hesitated in saying am I a feminist or not and then after hearing your speech, when you said, ‘if not now, when? If not me, who?’, I decided that there’s no way and there’s nothing wrong by calling yourself a feminist, and I am a feminist.”
3. Malala began her activism career at age 11, by writing an anonymous blog
In 2009 Malala began to write anonymous diary entries that were published on BBC Urdu, in which she detailed life under Taliban rule in Pakistand’s north-western Swat valley. She wrote under the name ‘Gul Makai’ (which is the name of the lead heroine found in a Pashtun folk tale). The entries showed her strong desire to remain in school despite the Taliban’s banning of education for girls, and attracted attention both locally and internationally.
4. On her 18th birthday, she opened a school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon
Malala opened the “Malala Yousafzai All-Girls School” near the Syrian border, which will provide quality secondary education to more than 200 Syrian girls living in informal camps and out of school in the Bekaa Valley region. At the opening Malala said, “I am here on behalf of the 28 million children who are kept from the classroom because of armed conflict. Their courage and dedication to continue their schooling in difficult conditions inspires people around the world and it is our duty to stand by them”.
5. She sparked Pakistan’s first Right To Free and Compulsory Education Bill
In the two weeks after she was attacked over 2 million people signed a right to education petition and the National Assembly swiftly followed up with a Right To Free and Compulsory Education Bill. Under the bill, every child, regardless of sex, nationality or race, shall have a fundamental right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school.
6. The UN have named the 12th of July ‘Malala Day’
On Malala’s 16th birthday, July 12th 2013, she spoke at the UN advocating for worldwide access to education. This was her first public speech since the attack, with an audience of over 500 young education advocates from around the world. The UN dubbed the event ‘Malala Day’. Leading up to Malala Day this year, she led an online campaign for education that had people all over the word hashtagging #BooksNotBullets.
7. Malala and Ziauddin Yousafzai founded The Malala Fund
The Malala Fund aims to raise girls’ voices and ensure every girl has access to 12 years of free, safe, quality primary and secondary education. The fund provides girls a voice and with a platform to connect with each other. Malala’s vision is that ‘by standing together, girls can dream big and know they are not alone’. This organisation funded the film He Named Me Malala.
8. Here is a list of (just some of the) awards she has received or been nominated for:
2011: Nominated for International Children’s Peace Prize by the The KidsRights Foundation
2011: Awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize, which was later renamed the National Malala Peace Prize, for those under 18 years old.
2013: Awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament
2013: Named one of TIME Magazine’s most influential people
2013: Nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize
2014: Awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, making her both the youngest person to ever receive the prize at age 17, and the first ever Pakistani recipient!
2014: Given honorary Canadian citizenshi, making her the sixth person and the youngest in the country’s history to receive the honor.
2015: Asteroid 316201 Malala named in her honour. (So cool!)
2017: She became the youngest ever United Nations Messenger of Peace, the UN’s highest honour.
9. She is currently living England but still cherishes and lives by her Pushtan culture
Malala travelled to the UK to receive treatment after her attack. She remained in England as it had become too dangerous for her to return to Pakistan. However Malala has said that she could not allow the thought or fear of a future terrorist threat to frighten her away from her mission to help Pakistan. She has been campaigning tirelessly for girls’ rights to education around the globe.
10. She is still so young, just like you.
It’s easy to forget how young Malala is because of all of her achievements and international acknowledgment. But she is still just a young girl who likes to read, has recently graduated from highschool and spends time with her family. She is a much needed reminder that you are never too young to stand up for what you believe in and that the voices of children really matter. Malala stands for young girls everywhere. She says, “I am not a lone voice. I am many.”
Having graduated from schoolgirl now, Malala is heading off to college soon and has applied to study philosophy, politics, and economics (the common choice for future world leaders in the UK and elsewhere.) In January, she launched a new initiative called the Gulmakai Network to benefit community leaders like herself and her father. She is currently embarking on a cross-continental Girl Power Trip to meet with students and fellow education activists in North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. We wish you all the best Malala!
Maddy regularly writes for Rosie, and is passionate about music, history, art and gender equality.
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