As I read the news today, the story of Malala Yousafzai piqued my interest. She is a model of the strength of modern youth. I hope her story is as inspiring to you as it is for me.
In early 2009, when Malala was 12, the Taliban banned girls from attending school in her small, tribal village in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. She had been encouraged by her father, himself an educational activist and scholar, to pursue an education from a young age. Unwilling to let the Taliban dictate her future, Malala became an outspoken activist for women’s right to an education. She spoke to the local Peshawar press club and went on to write a blog on the issue for BBC Urdu. Later in the year, during a tenuous peace between the local Pakistani government and the Taliban warlords, the Taliban reversed their decision and allowed girls to return to school, on the condition that they wear burqas, a traditional Muslim women’s dress that covers the entire body including the face. Despite this, Malala continued to blog, determined to continue the fight for complete equality for Pakistani women.
The peace was soon broken and the President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, signed into law a controversial regulation establishing a strict form of the Islamic sharia law in the region, once again putting strict constraints on women. Malala and her family were forced to evacuate to a refugee camp, when the Pakistani army moved into the area. Through it all, she continued to conduct interviews and speak out for women’s rights.
In October 2012, three years after first being banned from school, Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman. She was taken to a hospital in the United Kingdom and remained unconscious and in critical condition for days after the attack, but began to slowly improve. Fifty Pakistani Islamic clerics issued a fatwa (a decree similar to law condemning a group or action) against her attackers, yet the Taliban continue to reiterate their desire to kill Malala and her family.
Recently, Malala has made a near complete recovery and is determined to continue her fight for women’s rights.