7 times Malala Yousafzai inspired us as a young leader

7 times Malala Yousafzai inspired us as a young leader

July 15, 2019

“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.” - Malala Yousafzai


Malala Yousafzai is no ordinary young person. As a child, she spoke out for the rights of all girls in Pakistan to have an education. At 14 years old, she was shot by the Taliban for this very reason. When Malala made a miraculous recovery, she was even more motivated to continue her activism, and fiercely determined to make change for girls around the world, she set up the Malala Fund


Now, at just 21 years old, she has been recognised for a host of incredible accomplishments. She was the youngest person to be awarded The Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 and has even written a bestselling memoir — all the while becoming a world-renowned education activist. 


To celebrate Malala Day, here is a look back at some of her amazing moments as an inspirational young leader.


1. When she bravely spoke out publicly on behalf of girls’ right to learn in Pakistan


Malala’s passion for education is rooted within her family. Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, ran a girls’ school and believed in equal opportunities for boys and girls. In 2008, the Taliban obtained control of Swat and shut down all girls schools and restricted their education.


Malala, under the pseudonym Gal Makai, began blogging for the BBC at just 11 years old, sharing her experience story of living under Taliban control. Although she wrote anonymously, it still made her a target for the Taliban, who would later shoot her in the head while on her school bus. 



2. When she was awarded Pakistan’s first Youth National Peace Prize


Malala lived with her family in Swat Valley, northwest Pakistan — historically a conservative region of the country. Using the internet, she reached out to the rest of the world and wrote about her frustrations with the Taliban’s restrictions on female education in her hometown. In 2011, Malala was awarded Pakistan’s first National Peace Prize for her online diary reporting. 


Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani renamed the annual award shortly after, to the National Malala Peace Prize, acknowledging her courageous stand in the promotion of female education.


3. When each page of her book was packed with motivational quotes


“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world” - I am Malala


Every young leader should read Malala’s influential memoir I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. Published in 2013, her words inspired many around the world, quickly becoming a nonfiction best-seller.


4. When she gave a historic speech at the UN at age 16 


On her 16th birthday, Malala spoke at the Youth Takeover of the United Nations. She promoted the power of the pen over the sword claiming “our books and our pens are our most powerful weapons”. She called on all world leaders for peaceful policies, prosperity and the right for free education for all girls worldwide. Her unforgettable speech would go down in history: the 12th of July was crowned Malala day in honour of her activism as a powerful young leader.


5. When she returned back to her homeland after 5 years


After she was shot in 2012, Malala recovered in a UK hospital and then relocated to Birmingham with her family. While she currently studies Politics, Philosophy, and Economics at Oxford University, Malala stated that she never wanted to leave Pakistan, and it had always been her dream to return “in peace and without any fear”. In 2018, five years after the attack, she managed to do just that and met with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbas and other Pakistani officials. 


6. When she called for more action to support Syrian refugees


During an interview with Reuters, Malala advocated for more to be done about the millions of displaced Syrian children without homes and education. Once again she called upon world leaders to raise £1 billion so that all Syrian children could receive an education. Just like the threats to girls in Pakistan, it was important to Malala that they don’t become “a lost generation”. 


7. When she was made an honorary Canadian citizen


Malala once again proved that age is only a number, becoming the youngest of only six people in the world to receive honorary Canadian citizenship. Although her citizenship is entirely symbolic, it represents the worldwide respect and admiration for Malala as a young female activist and changemaker.


Alongside advocating for the education of girls worldwide, Malala is in the middle of pursuing her own academic career studying at the University of Oxford. She’s spoken out publicly against the Trump administration and the ISIS regime — all while living the normal life of a 21-year-old university student. With all of these accomplishments achieved at just 21 years old, it's impossible to imagine the impact Malala Yousafzai will have on the world in 21 more.  




Photo by Jeffrey Hamilton on Unsplash