You may have heard of Malala Yousafzai. Her birthday was last week; she turned 16. If her name doesn’t ring any bells and you’re still trying to figure out why I think you should be aware of a teen who isn’t Justin Bieber or your little cousin, let me introduce you to this kid. Malala was recently the victim of a very purposeful assassination attempt by the Taliban.
For anyone totally social media-dependent (like myself), it’s probably dawning on you that you read about her back in October, right after her shooting occurred. But it’s been a while, now, and she hasn’t really been making any headlines until her birthday speech at the UN a few days ago.
Before we get into what she’s up to now, let’s venture back and take a look at why a middle schooler would be the subject of a Taliban hit and why, when she survived, she was important enough to airlift out of Pakistan for extreme rehabilitation and protection.
Malala was shot, in the face and neck, because she wanted an education. More exactly, she wanted to attend school. And, as if to further drive home the point that they didn’t want her learning, the Taliban tried to murder her while she was on a school bus.
Somehow, this girl survived. She was unconscious for days and it didn’t look good but, after some time, she woke up and that’s when she was flown to Birmingham, in the U.K., along with her family. At this point, it wasn’t just her the Taliban wanted dead. I can also assume they were extra pissed with her because she survived … being shot … in the face (… and neck). And, whenever stereotypically evil villains don’t end someone successfully, they always get really goddamn mad.
So, with an angry Taliban displeased with her ability to live, she worked on her insanely successful recovery from the safety of England where she presumably kept calm and carried on despite being only 15 years old, at the time, and away from the only home she’s ever known.
Which brings us to present day. You see, Malala didn’t only successfully survive; she also hasn’t stopped kicking ass when it comes to championing women’s rights in her native Pakistan as well as human rights around the world. Not only does she currently look like a perfectly normal, unfazed, not-shot-in-the-head teenager, she hasn’t exactly been relaxing, either.
This young woman, who rose to local prominence after being recruited to write for the BBC Urdu about attending school and having a New York Times doc filmed about her, went back to school.”I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school,” she said. “All I want is education. And I’m afraid of no one.”
Since then, she’s been named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIME (she was featured on the cover of that issue and her entry was penned by Chelsea Clinton). Amazing. She’s also become the youngest person in history to be nominated for the Nobel Prize. WHAT. And, oh yeah, she spent her 16th birthday giving a speech to the UN that had all the grownups crying where she was heard defiantly stating, “One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.”
I may or may not be crying right now.
Malala’s work isn’t done. Despite the fact that she was born in 1998, a year when I was already almost her age and mostly occupied with reading Ann Rinaldi books and requesting Hanson on the radio, she wants to start an education fund for women and looks like she won’t really be putting her feet up until literally every woman in the world is allowed to attend school.
Until that day of relaxation comes for her, I beg you to stand with honorary Not the It Girl Malala and demand freedom and education for all. Besides being in the right, I’m pretty sure she’s the most influential little girl in the world and, after all, she’s afraid of no one.
To feed your Malala crush, check out this beautiful illustrated quote of hers:
To further fall in love, here’s her entire UN speech from her birthday (now known as Malala Day):
You can contact Alex, the author of this post, at firstname.lastname@example.org.