Making an Impact: Malala Yousafzai

By: Michal Cohen  |  November 18, 2013

Malala Yousafzai

Throughout history, people have stood up for what they believe in. These people have not necessarily been always powerful people and influential figures—they were regular men and women, kids and teenagers, who one day decided to take a stand against injustice. Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for raising her voice to promote women’s education, has joined this elite cadre. At just sixteen years of age, she has made a bigger impact on the world than most people have who are years older. Her passion for education led her to fight for the freedom of securing it, even under the threat of the Taliban. Instead of watching from the sidelines, she took action and voiced her opinion, spreading her views across the world. Her strong views on education were influenced by her father, who started a private girl’s school in Swat.

In the Swat valley in Pakistan, the Taliban has banned women’s education, brutally punishing anyone who defies them. The Taliban has blown up hundreds of girls’ schools to send the message that educating girls is against the law. In 2009, Malala started a blog about her life under Taliban rule and her thoughts on girls’ education. A year later, she starred in a documentary by the New York Times about the death threats she was receiving in Swat.  In October 2012, Taliban members boarded her school bus and shot her in the head, shooting two of her friends as well. Malala spent days fighting for her life and miraculously survived.

The bravery of one young girl has inspired people across the world, including fellow Pakistani girls who are now telling their stories about staying in school.

Malala has won numerous awards for her bravery and for her role as an advocate for girls’ rights to education. When she spoke at the UN on July 12 earlier this year, she told the people that the Taliban had tried to silence her and instill fear in her and others, but instead of killing her, the Taliban killed weakness and fear, enabling strength, power, and courage to be born instead. More people have come forward to fight for education rights and have told their stories about life under Taliban rule. Malala may not have expected such a positive reaction to her activism, but through her courage, she has created a butterfly effect. Once a young girl who was not known outside her family and friends, Malala has become an international icon for hope and bravery.

Even though she is sixteen now and was even younger at the time she started her activism, she has fought and continues to fight for what she believes in in the face of incredible danger.

Check out Jon Stewart’s exclusive interview with Malala on The Daily Show: