On my 16th birthday, I was excited to get my driver’s license. As the first of my friends to turn 16, I was anxious to drive my friends around independent from my parents. I was happy that my mom no longer had to drive me to school (how embarrassing, right?). I was foolish. I did not realize how lucky I was to go to school.
In 2009, Malala Yousafzai, a 15 year old Pakistani girl, made headlines when BBC published her diary. Malala’s personal accounts of gender inequities and restricted access to education gave the world its first glimpse of life under Taliban law. Two years later, her popularity grew as Desmond Tutu nominated her for the International Children’s Peace Prize and Pakistan’s Prime Minister awarded her with the country’s first National Youth Peace Prize.*
Due to her rising popularity and national recognition, the Taliban viewed her as a threat – for how could anyone challenge Taliban law, particularly a young girl? In order to quell Malala’s growing network of supporters, the Taliban took drastic action.
I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is an education. And I’m afraid of no one. ~ Malala Yousafzai
On October 9th, 2012, the Taliban sought to forever silence Malala and shot her in the head and neck. Although initially in critical condition, Malala miraculously survived only to become stronger than ever. Her story of infallible courage, which has since garnered international attention, has catapulted the fight for universal access to education to new heights.
Since the attack, Malala not only has inspired countless education advocates, but she has also launched the Malala Fund, an organization which aims to support the education and empowerment of girls in Pakistan and around the world. Additionally, Malala has been named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People as well as nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize – the youngest nominee in Nobel Prize history.
On Friday, July 12th – less than one year after her attempted assassination – Malala turns 16 years old. Rather than celebrating her birthday by gallivanting around town with friends in the family car, Malala will be speaking to the United Nations, giving voice to the 66 million girls around the world still unable to go to school.
They will not stop me. I will get my education if it is in home, school, or any place. ~ Malala Yousafzai
This Friday, now globally known as Malala Day, symbolizes the extraordinary power of courage, of education, of girls.
Here are five ways YOU can help:
- Sign the petition urging the United Nations to fund more global initiatives to ensure the world achieves Millennium Development Goal #2 – universal education for both boys and girls.
- Use Instagram and Vine! Raise your hand and tell the world why you believe in girls’ right to education. Tag photos with #MalalaDay and #bcimagirl.
- Explain to your friends on Facebook why Malala Day is so important. Raising awareness is crucial!
- Join the conversation on Twitter! Use #MalalaDay and #bcimagirl to share your thoughts, opinions, and ideas about Malala and her fight to achieve universal access to education for children around the world.
- Donate to the Malala Fund and support the advancement of universal access to education around the world.
To learn more about Malala’s story, please see the following:
- 2009. “Young Journalist Inspires Fellow Students.” Institute for War & Peace Reporting.
- Angelina Jolie, 2012. “We are all Malala.” The Daily Beast.
- Basharaat Peer, 2012. “The Girl Who Wanted to go to School.” The New Yorker.
- Declan Walsh, 2012. “Taliban Gun Down Girl Who Spoke Up For Rights.” The New York Times.
- Megan Smith, 2012. “Introducing: The Malala Fund.” The Huffington Post.
More of a visual learner? Watch these videos to discover more:
*This annual award is now known as the National Malala Peace Prize.
Cover image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons