On July 12, 2013, Malala Yousafzai, a sixteen-year-old Pakistani girl engaged in the promotion of women’s education, delivered an impassioned speech at the United Nations (UN) headquarters on the need for gender equality in education. The address saw several rounds of standing ovations for the teenager and the day, July 12, which is also her birthday, was soon declared by the UN as Malala Day in honour of the young activist.
Malala began advocating for women’s rights in education since 2008. Alongside, she was also critical of the Taliban menace in the region that has for decades been against women’s education. A year on, Malala also had a regular blog in BBC Urdu on her life during Taliban occupation of Swat. She soon attracted public attention from across the world and was sought after for interviews in newspapers and television shows.
In October 2012, Malala was attacked by Taliban gunmen and was in a critical condition. Soon after, she was sent to the United Kingdom to recover.
Despite the attack by Taliban, an undeterred Malala soon returned to the public arena, more fierce in her views than before, and continued her advocacy for gender rights. Based out of Birmingham, she founded the ‘Malala Fund’, which is a non-profit organisation that helps young girls go to school. She also co-authored a book by the name, “I am Malala” that became an international bestseller.
Apart from having a day dedicated to her, Malala has over the years been the recipient of a large number of awards and honours. In 2012, the Pakistan government awarded her the first National Youth Peace Prize. In 2014, at the age of 17, Malala became the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace prize. More recently, she has been awarded an honorary Canadian citizenship and was the youngest person to address the House of Commons in Canada. Malala has also been the subject of a number of popular features in mass media, including the documentary “He named me Malala”, which was shortlisted for the Oscars in 2015.