Women to Admire: Malala Yousafzai


Her name is Malala. The world knows her now as an education advocate, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and above all, a girl who defied the Taliban.

At just 21 years old, Malala Yousafzai has made incredible strides for women in the Middle East. Most of all, she’s worked hard so young women and girls can receive a proper education, making her one of our Women to Admire.

Malala was born in Mingora, Pakistan in 1997. Named after Malalai, a Pashtun heroine, her parents could not have known the hero their own daughter would become. It all began with her parents, Ziauddin and Toor Pekai Yousafzai. Her father, an educator, wanted his daughter to go to school and learn as much as she could.

At age 10, Malala watched as Taliban militants took control of her community. In 2008, the terrorist group banned girls from going to school. Malala defied their strict rules by blogging about her and other young girls’ experiences for the BBC under the pen name “Gul Makai.”

The New York Times would soon feature Malala and her father in a short documentary. The awareness she raised for young girls’ education was growing. The Taliban noticed this as well and issued a death threat against her. On Oct. 9, 2012, the Taliban came on board Malala’s school bus and shot her in the head, neck and shoulder. Malala survived and has since continued her fight for education.

Malala’s wisdom has been an inspiration to young girls everywhere, and her quotes could ring true in any century.

“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced,” Malala mentioned in her book I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.

What is so incredible about Malala is the achievements she made so young in life. All of these events happened before she turned 16. On that birthday, she spoke at the United Nations. Since then, July 12 has been known as Malala Day.

Despite what she experienced, Malala returned to school, knowing her work wasn’t over. She continued to campaign for girls’ education by setting up the Malala Fund. She has since traveled the world to spread her message, taking action herself when possible. For instance, Malala opened a school in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley for Syrian refugees. She also traveled to Nigeria to meet with families of girls kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram.

In 2015, Malala became the youngest Nobel Laureate ever. She won the Nobel Peace Prize along with Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi. The documentary He Named Me Malala, directed by Davis Guggenheim, was released later in the year detailing her miraculous journey.

Today, you can help further Malala’s mission by learning about and donating to the Malala Fund.

light. Read. Women to Admire: Michelle Obama

Today, Malala attends the University of Oxford where she is studying philosophy, politics and economics. At 21, she still has so much to offer the world and young girls everywhere. We admire her for her strength and positivity, and for the many young girls she has helped. Who knows — maybe one of them will be the next activist to follow in Malala’s footsteps.

Editor’s Note: Every day in March, we here at Culturess will feature a Woman to Admire — both real and fictional — for Women’s History Month. Keep coming back every day to see who’s made it on the list.