“Through my story I want to tell other children all around the world that they should stand up for their rights. They should not wait for someone else, and their voices are more powerful. Their voices—it would seem that they are weak, but at the time when no one speaks, your voice gets so loud that everyone has to listen to it. Everyone has to hear it.” – Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Speech, October 10, 2014
Malala Yousafzai was born into a Sunni Muslim family on 12 July 1997 in the Swat District of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. She was educated in large part by her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, a poet who owned a chain of private schools.
Her educational activism began at a remarkably young age. When she was just 11, Malala delivered a speech (covered by regional newspapers and television channels) at a local press club. "How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education!" she told the audience with indignation well beyond her years.
In the same year, the BBC Urdu website came up with a novel way of reporting on the Taliban's creeping influence in Swat by asking students to blog anonymously about their everyday life. At the time, Taliban militants had banned television, music, girls' education, and women from going shopping. The website's request was turned down by the families of all the students it approached because they considered it too dangerous—until Malala, with the blessing of her father, indicated that she was willing to do it. She was in seventh grade at the time.
Malala would handwrite notes and furtively pass it to a reporter, who would then scan and email it to the BBC; her first blog came out in January 2009. Her early entries chronicled her reflections even as military operations took place nearby, even as the Taliban had declared an edict that girls were no longer allowed to attend school, and even as her very own school had been shut down.
“It seems that it is only when dozens of schools have been destroyed and hundreds others closed down that the army thinks about protecting them. Had they conducted their operations here properly, this situation would not have arisen.” – Malala Yousafzai, 24 January 2009 BBC blog entry
Soon after, Malala and her family were displaced (and separated) during Pakistani military campaigns in the Swat District. Meanwhile, after criticising extremists at a press conference, Malala’s father received a death threat over the radio from a Taliban commander. Deeply inspired by her father’s heroic act, Malala pledged to become a politician instead of the doctor she had always wished to be.
“I have a new dream… I must be a politician to save this country. There are so many crises in our country. I want to remove these crises,” she said in a New York Times documentary.
In 2011, Archbishop Desmond Tutu nominated Malala for the International Children's Peace Prize of the Dutch international children's advocacy group KidsRights Foundation, making her the first Pakistani girl to be nominated for the award. Her previous blogger identity was eventually revealed as her public profile rose, and Malala began to receive death threats herself. In 2012, Taliban leaders unanimously agreed to have her assassinated. Later that year, she was shot and seriously wounded by a lone Taliban gunman as she rode home on a bus after taking an exam. Malala spent more than a year in hospitals, much of it in a coma.
“I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.” – Malala Yousafzai envisioning another confrontation with the Taliban
In 2014, it was announced that Malala was the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people, as well as for her advocacy of the sacrosanct right of all children, boy or girl, to education. Having received the prize at the age of 17, she is the youngest ever Nobel Laureate.
Together with her father, Malala Yousafzai co-founded the Malala Fund to empower girls to unlock their potential. This year, Woodform Architectural is donating $5000 to the Malala Fund instead of sending out our traditional end-of-year gifts, and we hope to raise $5000 more. We urge you to join us here in supporting this worthy cause.