Malala Yousafzai was born on July 12, 1997, in Mingora, Pakistan, located in the country’s Swat Valley. For the first few years of her life, Malala Yousafzai’s hometown remained a popular tourist spot known for its summer festivals. However, this changed as the Taliban tried to take control and began imposing strict laws, destroying or shutting down girls’ schools, banning women from any active role in society, and carrying out suicide bombings.
Malala attended a school that her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, had founded. After the Taliban began attacking girls’ schools, Malala gave a speech titled “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?”. In early 2009, when she was just 11 years old, Yousafzai began blogging for the BBC about living under the Taliban’s as a girl and the threat posed to her education. To hide her identity, she used the name Gul Makai but was soon publicly revealed to be the BBC blogger. With a growing public platform, Yousafzai continued to speak out about her right, and the right of all women, to an education. Her activism resulted in a nomination for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011. On October 9, 2012, a gunman shot Yousafzai when she was travelling home from school. The shooting left Yousafzai in critical condition, so she was flown to a military hospital in Peshawar, then transferred to Birmingham, England.
In March 2013, she began attending school in Birmingham and in 2014, she became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2013, Yousafzai and her father launched the Malala Fund, which works to ensure girls worldwide have access to 12 years of free, safe, quality education.
For her 18th birthday, in July 2015, Yousafzai continued to take action on global education by opening a school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon. “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.” With more than 130 million girls out of school today, it is clear there is more work to be done, and Malala remains a staunch advocate for the power of education and for girls to become agents of change in their communities.