Women’s History Month: winning post on Malala Yousafzai
7th April 2017
This post is the winner of the Blog Post competition run by the History course at the University of Gloucestershire, and comes from undergraduate student at the University, Stephanie White.
“I tell my story not because it’s unique, but because it’s not, it is the story of many girls.”
The fight for woman and equality is an ongoing battle. If it weren’t for the powerful woman who stood up in the past to fight for what they believed in, we would be living in a completely different world. Fighting for the right to vote, to be able to work and to even sit down on a bus are just some of the events in which women have made a substantial change to the lives of people today. And yet, I know that this fight isn’t over. Women are still standing up for their beliefs when they see the wrong in the world, and it’s inspiring to know that this will a be part of history that is read about in the future.
I remember one night in 2012, I was sat at home watching the news on the television. The breaking story of the day was an attack on a young girl who had been shot in the head by the Taliban. The footage I saw had her laying on a hospital bed, covered in blood and bandages. This was my first impression of Malala Yousafzai, a girl who had been fighting for the right for girls in her country to attend school. At the time she was only 15 years old, just a year older than myself, and she was already a young activist battling for what she believed in.
Malala became the key topic of news for several weeks after the incident, and I was able to learn more about her life. She was born on 12 July 1997 in Mingora, a town in the north-west of Pakistan. Her father ran a school opposite their home, so Malala was brought up knowing that education was a valuable and vital part of a child’s life. However, as the Taliban began sweeping Pakistan with their ideology, more and more girls were forced to stop attending school and take on a more traditional role instead. A girl’s right to an education is something that is normal in this country, taken for granted even. And depriving a person of education because of their gender is unheard of here. Yet, Malala and her family were fighting to keep their school open so that girls in the area could receive an education.
Malala was not afraid to speak out about her beliefs on education, much to the anger of the Taliban. In 2008 she gave a speech in Pakistan titled “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” and in 2009 began writing a blog for the BBC about living with the ongoing threat of the Taliban. At first she hid her identity, but she was revealed as the blogger in December later that year. Although Malala knew it was a dangerous thing to do, she still fought for what she believed in. The Taliban could not silence what she knew was a basic human right.
Malala continued to publicly campaign for her right to go to school. Her family became aware of the death threats the Taliban openly made towards her, but that only made Malala’s voice louder. She and her father became known throughout Pakistan for their dedication to give Pakistani girls access to free, quality education. Malala received the Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize in 2011, but only a year later she was attacked.
Malala was sat on the bus, heading home from school with her friends. Two Taliban approached the bus, boarded and asked for hepersonally. In a brutal act, they then shot her in the head.
The bullets had gone straight through her skull, and yet, she remained alive. She was treated for serious injuries in a Pakistani military hospital, and then sent to an intensive care unit four days later in Birmingham, England. She required multiple surgeries and weeks of treatment, but fortunately she suffered no major brain damage. It was at this point I saw Malala, bloodied but determined to live. Being on the news let the world know her name and her passion, and as she recovered, she continued her fight.
Since then, Malala has spoken at the United Nations, published her own book, created the Malala fund with her father and has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize winner at just 17. She continues to speak out about her beliefs and make an impact on people’s lives. Malala shouldn’t only be known as the girl who was shot by the Taliban, she should be known for the brilliant achievements she’s made through her life. Being attacked on the bus from school was the moment the Taliban lost their own fight.
Malala is a strong, inspirational young woman. What nearly ended her life turned into a moment of power. Instead of giving up after being so close to death, Malala turned this tragic event into something exceptional. She has already done so much for a girl’s right to education and I know that she will continue this fight until she has won.
The Malala Fund (2017) Malala’s Story. Available at: https://www.malala.org/malalas-story (Accessed: 09 March 2017)
Biography.com Editors (2016) Malala Yousafzai Biography. Available at: http://www.biography.com/people/malala-yousafzai-21362253 (Accessed: 11 March 2017)
THE FAMOUS PEOPLE (2017) Malala Yousafzai Biography. Available at: http://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/malala-yousafzai-5482.php (Accessed: 11 March 2017)
Satyarthi, K. and Yousafzai, M. (2014) Malala Yousafzai – Biographical. Available at: https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2014/yousafzai-bio.html (Accessed: 11 March 2017)