Malala Yousafzai is an international activist who advocates for the rights of girls and women while emphasizing the transformative powers of education, dialogue and peace. Born on July 12, 1997, in Pakistan’s Swat Valley as part of the Pashtun community, Yousafzai attended the school her father, Ziauddin, ran and became a star pupil, showing a zest for learning. But, with the region in the midst of ongoing conflict and a long war, the militant extremist group the Taliban had forbidden girls from attending school.
On a bus ride going home from class in October 2012, Yousafzai was specifically targeted and shot by a Taliban gunman who was part of a group of attackers, with two other girls injured as well. Days later she was airlifted to England and, with severe head trauma, began the months-long road to recuperation at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Upon being released in February 2013, she resumed her studies in Birmingham and in June of that year, with aplomb, defiance and wisdom, addressed the United Nations about her experiences and vision for the world. The Malala Fund was also established, providing global investments in educational opportunities for girls.
In October 2014, Yousafzai along with fellow activist Kailash Satyarthi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education,” according to the prize committee. Yousafzai thus became the youngest person to receive the honor among the scores of additional accolades she has continued to earn. She has also written the 2013 memoir I Am Malala, with Christina Lamb.
In 2017, she began her studies at Oxford University and the following year returned to visit her native country for the first time since she had left. Here are some of Malala Yousafzai’s inspiring words.