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Pakistani Taliban victim continues to advocate for women’s education

Known simply as “Malala,” Malala Yousafzai has revolutionized education for children in Third World countries, especially girls, all before her 20th birthday.

Originally from Swat Valley in Pakistan, Yousafzai was born in 1997 and attended a school founded by her father, an anti-Taliban activist.

During Yousafzai’s youth, Taliban influence began to grow in the Middle East, especially in Pakistan. The Taliban targeted and set out to punish those who diverted from its version of the Muslim religion.

According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), in 2008, “the local Taliban leader, Mullah Fazlullah, issued a dire warning – all female education had to cease within a month, or schools would suffer consequences.”

Despite this edict, some of Yousafzai’s classmates, including herself, continued to attend school.

At the age of 11 in 2009 using a nom de plume, she began blogging for the BBC about her education under Taliban oppression. Her identity was revealed in December of that year.

Yousafzai’s life changed when, at the age of 14, she received a death threat from the Taliban. Although the Taliban influence in Swat Valley had decreased by this time and her family did not believe that the Taliban would target a child, they kept a low profile. Anyone who so much as spoke up for anything raised suspicion among the Taliban.

After school on Oct. 9, 2012, Yousafzai, then 15 years old, boarded a bus that took students and teachers home daily. Upon exiting the school gates, however, two men boarded the bus and said simply, “Who is Malala?” Her schoolmates looked in Yousafzai’s direction, unknowingly exposing her. The men proceeded to shoot Yousafzai in the head injuring two other classmates at the same time.

Yousafzai was flown to Peshawar to receive proper care and placing her out of reach of the Taliban. She then was flown to Birmingham, England, for brain surgery.

Miraculously, Yousafzai suffered no major brain damage from the ordeal.

Although she is still considered a Taliban target, Yousafzai began advocating women’s education more vigorously upon her recovery.

On her sixteenth birthday in July 2013, only nine months after the shooting, Yousafzai spoke at the United Nations. She released her autobiography, “I Am Malala,” in October that same year. She was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize but did not win.

In 2014, Yousafzai was again nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and won with children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi.

Yousafzai is now 18 years old and continues to advocate for education and serves as an inspiration for many. On July 12, 2015, her eighteenth birthday, Yousafzai opened a school in Lebanon for Syrian refugee girls.

“Today on my first day as an adult, on behalf of the world’s children, I demand of leaders we must invest in books instead of bullets,” said Yousfzai when she spoke at the school.

Yousafzai also spoke at the Oslo Education Summit that same month and told world leaders, “Books are a better investment in our future than bullets. Books, not bullets, will pave the path towards peace and prosperity.”

Yousafzai and her father have co-founded the Malala Fund, an organization aimed at carrying out Malala’s message and changing the stigma of girls’ education in developing countries and areas in which girls are faced with violence and terrorism for going to school.

Her most recent project is a documentary on her personal story and activism which will be released in theaters in October 2015.

Yousafzai is arguably one of the most influential, albeit youngest, education activists of the 21st century. The story of her opposition against the Taliban and her miraculous survival continues to impact and inspire people all over the world. Her work in creating opportunities for girls’ education and sending messages directly to world leaders is eliciting visible advancements in education in various countries.

Despite her youth, Yousafzai is already a world-renowned activist who has generated more change in her few years of life than the average adult. She is a beacon of light to all and a positive influence on the world. Only one question remains now: what’s next for Malala?

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