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Girl Bosses of History: Malala Yousafzai

Illustration by: August Kay


“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” - Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is a girl boss beyond measure and a game changer as far as women’s rights and advocacy goes. Her contributions for girls’ education are incredible, but it’s important to note the sacrifices she made and exactly how she got to this point.

Malala was born and raised in Mingora, Pakistan, where her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, operated a school for children. Her father was very passionate and outspoken about children’s education, much like Malala grew up to be, despite the Taliban wanting girls to stop going to school.

Malala started gaining attention from the public in 2009 when she began writing about her life under the Taliban’s regime through BBC’s blog. This was extremely dangerous for Malala and her family, and they received many death threats for speaking out about education rights. To honour her advocacy, she received the first National Youth Peace Prize in 2011 but with her increasing media presence, the Taliban targeted her with intentions to kill her.

October 9th, 2012. That is the day that Malala’s life was turned upside down, along with the whole world. On her way home from school, a member of the Taliban shot her in the head. Two other students suffered injuries. While Malala was immediately transferred to the UK for serious medical treatment, the world had begun to finally see and acknowledge the reality of life in Pakistan. It was time to take action. Within weeks, the National Assembly signed Pakistan’s first Right To Free and Compulsory Education Bill due to an international petition with over two million signatures.

Malala experienced firsthand the barriers that young women face when trying to get a good education, so she created The Malala Fund, which believes that every girl should have access to 12 solid years of “safe, quality, and relevant education”. The organization uses this framework to implement change in even the most remote regions of the world.

The Malala Fund has had tremendous success in providing opportunities for girls to learn and grow. Currently, the organisation funds numerous programs, a few specific ones being the expanding of secondary schools in Pakistan, training in technology/life skills in Kenya, courses for Syrian refugee girls and safe space clubs for young girls in Nigeria to encourage academics and the delay of marriage. The Malala Fund focuses on specific issues in underdeveloped countries and ensures that girls are being listened to by their local governments about what they need to be successful.

Some may wonder how programs in these countries are helping women everywhere. See, the idea that all women and girls have the right to a safe, quality education is fairly new in a historical sense. And although there has been massive progress, there are still 130 million girls out of school today, across 70 countries. Women like Malala are opening up important dialogue at all levels of government about steps that need to be taken to make sure that the days of uneducated girls are in the past. In a much broader sense, Malala has become an important woman in history (and she is still making history - I mean, not everybody wins a Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17) who is making women’s rights and gender equality a priority in our world leaders’ agendas. She does this with empathy, intelligence, and unwavering passion. We will see a lot more of Malala and the Malala Fund in the future as she continues to make good education a reality for all girls, everywhere.

References: I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb


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