Malala Yousafzai was born on July 12, 1997 in Pakistan. Her father is a poet and educator. At the age of 11 she began speaking up for education rights. The next year she started a blog for the BBC describing her life under the Taliban, which had begun banning girls from school. She continued speaking out on behalf of the 57 million children around the world who are unable to attend school.
In 2011 she was given Pakistan’s National Peace Award for Youth. Accepting the honor, she stated that she is not a member of any political party but hoped to found a national party of her own to promote education. A secondary school was named in her honor. The next year, at the age of 15, she made plans to create the Malala Education Foundation, which would help poor girls attend school.
On October 9, 2012, a Taliban gunman shot her as she rode home on a bus after taking an exam. The bullet went through her head and neck, lodging in her shoulder near her spinal cord. Surgeons at a military hospital in Pakistan removed the bullet; she was brought to the United Kingdom for further treatment. A five-hour operation on February 2, 2013 reconstructed her skull and restored her hearing. A Taliban spokesman said the group will try again to attack her: “If we found her again, then we would definitely try to kill her. We will feel proud upon her death.”
On July 12, her sixteenth birthday, she made her first public speech after the attack. Appearing at the United Nations, she stated: “The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”
Malala has been named one of Time‘s “100 Most Influential People in the World.” Her autobiography, I Am Malala, was released this week to coincide with the one-year anniversary of her shooting. She is the youngest nominee in history for the Nobel Peace Prize, which will be awarded this morning.
When asked why she would risk her life, she said, “Why should I wait for someone else? Why should I be looking to the government or the army, that they would help us? Why don’t I raise my voice? Why don’t we speak up for our rights?” She challenged the UN: “Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.”
Jesus would agree, calling his followers the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-16). He likened his kingdom to a grain of mustard seed that grows into a massive tree. It’s been noted that one + God = majority.
Former First Lady Laura Bush has compared Malala to Anne Frank, who wrote: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Where will you start today?