On 9 October 2012, 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai was on the school bus home when she was shot in the head by the Taliban. She survived and went on to achieve amazing things for human rights around the world.
The Taliban had targeted her because she campaigned for the right of Pakistani girls to go to school, in the face of their attempts to outlaw education for girls. In 2014, the UN officially named 12 July ‘Malala Day’. So, in celebration, here are nine amazing things she’s done for both women’s rights and the human right to education.
1. Malala has campaigned for girls’ rights to education since she was 11 years old
When the Taliban began attacking girls’ schools in her home region of Swat, Pakistan, 11-year-old Malala began to campaign for girls’ right to education. She gave a speech in Peshawar, Pakistan and began blogging for BBC Urdu about going to school during the Taliban occupation.
As a result, Malala started receiving death threats from the Taliban – aged just 14. Despite this, she carried on campaigning and going to school.
2. Malala was awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize in 2011
In addition to receiving the National Youth Peace Prize (later named the National Malala Peace Prize in her honour), Malala also won the 2013 International Children’s Peace Prize (and was nominated for the same prize in 2011 by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa).
3. The Malala Fund
Whilst still recovering from the shooting, Malala and her father co-founded the Malala Fund. The Fund exists to raise awareness of the social and economic impact of girls’ education and to empower girls around the world. You can donate to the fund here.
4. Malala has campaigned on feminism and Islam
In her autobiography, I Am Malala, she writes:
Education is our right…just as it is our right to sing. Islam has given us this right and says that every girl and boy should go to school.
This is by no means the only amazing thing she says in her autobiography though, so if you’re looking for some summer reading…
5. In 2013, Malala won the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize
On 10 October 2013, the European Parliament awarded Malala the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
The prize is awarded to “individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights across the globe”.
6. Malala celebrated her 17th birthday with some of the Chibok girls
Malala spent her 17th birthday with some of the Chibok girls who had escaped Boko Haram. Boko Haram is a Taliban-inspired insurgency in Nigeria that kidnapped more than 300 teenaged girls from their school dormitory in 2014. Malala also spoke with Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, who promised to do everything he could to ensure the kidnapped girls’ safe return.
7. Malala was the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner
In October 2014, Malala received the Nobel Peace Prize. At age 17, she was the youngest person ever to receive the prize.
8. Malala has helped female refugees to carry on their education
On last year’s Malala Day (her 18th birthday) Malala opened the “Malala Yousafzai All-Girls School” near the Syrian border. This provides quality secondary education to more than 200 Syrian girls.
9. Her ‘books not bullets’ campaign inspired girls around the world
Malala argued that if governments around the world stopped spending money on the military for just 8 days, they would have the $39 billion needed to provide 12 years of free education to every child in the world.
To mark her 18th birthday, Malala asked girls to show their support for government prioritisation of education by uploading a picture of themselves with their favourite book and the hashtag #booksnotbullets. Responses came from all over the world, including countries where women’s right to education is often suppressed.
So this Malala Day, why not declare #YesAllGirls and remind the world that it promised 12 years of education to all girls, everywhere.
- You can also check out our poster on the right to education
- Take a look at our 5 favourite cases on women’s rights