As young as eleven, Malala Yousafzai became an advocate for girls’ access to education in her native country of Pakistan. Unfortunately, this resulted in the Taliban issuing a hit on her life. On October 9, 2012, Malala was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban while walking home from school. She did survive and has since continued to speak out on the importance of education. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014; also the youngest person in history to receive it.
Now a global teacher and activist, her achievements are unparalleled. On her 18th birthday, July 12.2015, also named Malala Day, the young activist continued to make global education a worldwide priority. She proceeded to spread awareness about the importance of #BooksNotBullets, and encouraged world leaders to fund the real weapon for change: Education.
Malala revealed a shocking truth that although world leaders have the money to fully fund primary and secondary education around the world, they are instead choosing to spend money on their military budgets. It is estimated that with the exception of this, we would hold the $39 billion still needed to provide 12 years of free quality education to every child walking the planet. Additionally, Malala also opened a school near the Syrian border, for Syrian refugees, funded by the not-for-profit Malala fund. This offers quality education and training to girls ages 14-18 years.
Malala has become a global campaigner for education and in doing so, has tremendously influenced the entire world, not to mention her native country of Pakistan. She recently donated $50,000 towards the reconstruction of schools in Gaza. Upon receiving the World Children’s Prize for the rights of the child in Sweden, she is having the money channeled through the UNRWA (United Nations Relief Agency) to help rebuild 65 schools in the Palestinian territory alone. Currently residing in the UK, Malala now has her own fund to assist small scale organizations in a number of countries including Pakistan.
She was a guest on Jon Stewart not too long ago discussing the challenges and barriers Muslim women face, her fight for educational rights, and her upcoming book. (See above) Everyone please check out her written autobiography, “I am Malala: The Girl who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban,” which was released in October 2013. It is definitely worth the read whether you are involved in human services or not. For those who do not know, there will also be a documentary released in October 2015 called “He Named Me Malala.” This will give viewers an intimate look into the life of Malala, her family, and her commitment to supporting education for girls around the world. She serves as a great inspiration in the social work field internationally not only as an advocate for education, but as someone who has chosen with purpose and intent, to take a stand against social injustice; particularly that which relates to human rights. Her story was especially powerful and moving for me, working so closely with children and their families within the school system. In my continued mission to bring important social issues to the forefront, I also want to jump at every opportunity possible to raise awareness to strong, amazing, and determined people individuals who have went above and beyond to make a difference in areas they are passionate about. Malala will go down in history as one of the most influential, leading advocates of female rights as she perseveres despite facing adversity, to reduce the spread of conflict against the rights of women and children, and works diligently to achieve a more peaceful world while altering societal attitudes about education.
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