Malala Yousafzai, along with Indian children’s rights campaigner, Kailash Satyarthis, have won the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala won the hearts of millions when she faced death for advocating education for girls in pakistan. She survived and has taken a global stance. On the afternoon of Tuesday, 9 October 2012, 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai boarded her school bus in the northwest Pakistani district of Swat. Shortly afterwards the bus was stopped by a gunman who boarded and asked for Malala by name. He then pointed a Colt 45 at her and fired three shots. One bullet hit the left side of Malala’s forehead, traveled under her skin the length of her face and then into her shoulder.
She remained unconscious and in critical condition for days, before being sent for specialist treatment in London, where she made a full recovery. The reason for the attack on this teenager surfaced shortly after the incident: The Taliban in the region didn’t like her promoting the education of girls, where they had recently taken control and had banned girls from attending school. From the age of 11, Malala had already been writing a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC, detailing her life under Taliban rule.
She rose to prominence and caught the attention of the Taliban after a New York Times documentary was made about her life and South African activist Desmond Tutu nominated her for the International Children’s Peace Prize. Since her near-death incident there has been an international outpouring of support for Malala, to the point where she may have become the most famous teenager in the world.
Then Prime Minister of the U.K., Gordon Brown, launched a United Nations petition using the slogan “I am Malala” and demanded that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015. The petition led to the ratification of Pakistan’s first Right to Education Bill. The universal condemnation and subsequent call to action cut across cultural divides and genders.
Time magazine named her one of The 100 Most Influential People in the World, Pakistan awarded her the country’s first National Youth Peace Prize and in 2013 she received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, previously bestowed on the likes of Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan and Aung San Suu Kyi. Thirty-three additional awards and honors have been given to Malala, focusing the world’s attention on what might have been just another tragic, and silent, crime against women.
On her 16th birthday, she spoke at the United Nations to call for worldwide access to education. The event was dubbed ‘Malala Day’ and was her first public speech since the attack. It also led to the first ever Youth Takeover of the U.N., with an audience of more than 500 young education advocates from around the world.
“The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions,” she said. “But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born. We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.”