Equal Rights for Women
Throughout history, women have not always had access to the same rights as men. More recently, women are increasingly demanding and fighting for equal rights, especially by women who witness the oppression or have lived subject to the inequalities. Here are five women who are taking leadership in advancing equal rights for women.

5 Women Advancing Equal Rights for Women

  1. Malala Yousafzai, alongside her father, established the Malala Fund. In 2012, the Taliban targeted Malala, a vocal advocate for a girl’s right to education, and shot her on the left side of her head on her way home from school. When Malala recovered, she decided that she wanted to continue fighting for education for girls around the world. With the allyship of her father, she established the Malala Fund. It supports educators in eight different countries with $22 million invested in Malala Fund campaigns. Malala Yousafzai is a woman advancing equal rights for women by advocating for every girl’s right to an education as well as financially supporting schools for women in various countries.
  2. Gabby Edlin is the founder of The Bloody Good Period Campaign. While volunteering at a refugee center, she noticed that women did not receive menstrual products with their kit of essentials. Gabby started a small campaign on Facebook, and the interest in helping women grew. This led to her creating The Bloody Good Period Campaign, overcoming resistance from men who did not believe that the resource was a necessity. Bloody Good Period focuses its efforts on asylum-seeking women who are unable to purchase food or other necessities because of their need to purchase menstrual products; it seeks to educate women and destigmatize menstruation. Gabby Edlin is a woman advancing equal rights for women by educating and garnering the support of the public. She also uses the funds to provide menstrual product needs to refugees.
  3. Forgotten Women is an organization that women run for women. They founded the organization after witnessing the abuse of vulnerable women around the world. Forgotten Women developed the LIFT Model which stands for “Leveraging Investment for Transformation.” Through this model, it provides the means for women to be permanently self-sufficient and provides emergency aid to women in vulnerable positions. Forgotten Women has a sexual trauma clinic that currently reaches an average of 105,000 women per year; it continues to advocate for equality, defending women who stand for this value. Forgotten Women is a group of women advancing equal rights for women by imparting unconditional aid to vulnerable women and supplying them with the means to be self-sustained providers.
  4. Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin founded Pearls Africa. Abisoye lost her mom when she was 4 years old, and at a young age, she learned about computers through a family friend’s support. Her tech skillset enabled her to intern with EDP Audit & Security Associates, an IT auditing firm in Lagos, Nigeria. She noticed the underrepresentation of women within the industry of tech and determined to change this disparity. In an interview with Unearth Women, she said, “In Nigeria, there are very few girls in STEM fields, as they have been made to believe that tech is not something that they can pursue due to their sex or gender. This is a lie, and it’s something we’re trying to change systematically through the GirlsCoding initiative.” One of the successes of GirlsCoding took place in the impoverished Makoko slum in Lagos. After the young women left GirlsCoding, they became leaders in their communities. Then, they started Makoko Fresh, an e-commerce platform that supports and improves the livelihoods of local fishermen. GirlsCoding is just a part of the work that occurs through the organization Pearls Africa. Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin is a woman whose intellectual leadership advances equal rights for women by expelling doubts and stigmas about female capabilities and equipping girls with the resources to pursue a meaningful career.
  5. Sonita Alizadeh is a champion and advocates on the behalf of Girls Not Brides. At the age of 16, Sonita found out that her parents were going to sell her into marriage. Despite her family’s disapproval, she recorded music about her experiences as a woman and a refugee. Sonita released her song­, “Daughters for Sale” on YouTube. The video went viral, and her parents decided not to sell her into marriage. Sonita Alizadeh now lives in the United States and continues to fight on behalf of child brides. She works as an advocate with Girls Not Brides and speaks with global authorities on the issue. The organization urges countries to develop laws, policies and programs that end child marriage; Sonita Alizadeh is a woman whose creative leadership advances equal rights for women, specifically young girls, who would otherwise be sold into marriage before maturity.

The leadership of these women advances equal rights for women across the world. Their personal experiences and courage, often in the face of insurmountable odds, led them to activism on behalf of vulnerable or oppressed women. The example that they set serves as an inspiration to all people that each person’s voice has value, meaning and power. The impact of each organization demonstrates the importance of advocacy and activism.

Hannah Brock
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Malawi
Malawi, a small country in Southern Africa, is known for its rich culture. Unfortunately, their economy is still very poor. There are many factors that lead to poverty, but education, specifically girls’ education in Malawi, is a major source of financial turmoil that is often overlooked.

Girls’ Education and Poverty

World Bank has found that girls around the world are consistently enrolled in school at lower rates than boys. Malawi is no exception. While around 67% of boys in the country complete primary school, that number is 8% lower for girls. This gap stays consistent throughout different stages of schooling. Low-income households have a larger divide between male and female education. When analyzing upper-class families in Malawi, researchers found little difference in the percentage of girls and boys attending school.

The Malala Fund discovered that improving girls’ education has the potential to unlock trillions of dollars in revenue, while also increasing human rights. Therefore, the barriers to female literacy must not be overlooked. Data analysis proves that nations that discourage education for girls also have higher rates of financial struggle and a larger wage gap. As proven by the aforementioned connections between class and school enrollment, economic barriers are a factor to illiteracy. However, attempting to combat poverty without working toward equal access to education for girls will not yield results.

Barriers to Girls’ Education in Malawi

Daniel Moyo spoke to The Borgen Project on the relationship between education inequality and economic strain in Malawi. As the program director for Ministry of Hope Malawi, he witnesses these issues firsthand. The entrenched cultural norms that Moyo says “look at girls as sexual objects and not as equal human beings” are much more difficult to overcome than the financial burdens. Moyo explains that sexism in schooling directly impacts the economy by “creating a situation where most women are not only housewives, but also left to suffer in acute poverty.”

When charities provide economic funding for girls’ education in Malawi without understanding cultural barriers as well, their efforts are futile. Moyo cites an example of aid that went wrong due to this oversight. An NGO sponsored a secondary school in Phalombe and provided every girl with economic support. However, this backfired because it neglected to tackle the surrounding issues. Moyo discusses how the money gave the students freedom without guidance, resulting in their newfound status being used to “compete for boyfriends and men and not necessarily for financial or material gain.” Thus, “at the end of one year, almost half of the girls at this one high school became pregnant.”

Holistic Approach to Improving the Economy

The efforts by organizations such as Ministry of Hope are helping to improve poverty by recognizing its connection to girls’ education in Malawi. This nonprofit, dedicated to helping vulnerable communities, takes a holistic approach to aiding Malawians that has assisted in making tangible change. Between 2000 and 2018, almost 9% more girls were enrolled in secondary school.

Ministry of Hope encourages organizations to not blindly give money to improve the economy. Rather, “it calls for a lot of factors including policy shifts, cultural beliefs, behavior changes, and a lot of investment in girls’ education.” This is why supporting bills such as the Keeping Girls in School Act (S.1071) is so crucial for tackling poverty in the Global South.

There tends to be a narrative that poverty causes illiteracy. However, if that approach is flipped, there comes a new solution with additional potential for forging change. By advancing education, poverty can also be lowered. Those fighting for change must help organizations on the ground who are providing guidance along with their scholarships. By addressing the cultural and economic barriers of educational inequality, poverty can begin to decrease in Malawi.

– Annie Bennett
Photo: Flickr

Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act
Malala Yousafzai is a Noble Peace Prize laureate. After surviving a Taliban encounter, she wrote the memoir, “I Am Malala.” She advocates for education and against discrimination.

On September 26, 2019, Hakeem Jeffries introduced the Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act. Communities of Pakistan and the United States have aligned with Malala’s text, principles and initiatives while many support her opinions on terrorism and poverty. The Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act intends to ensure that young adults and Pakistani students live without fear of discrimination, and can successfully garner an education.

The Malala Yousafzai Act

There are government programs that guide access to education throughout the diaspora communities of Pakistan. The Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act is pushing for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to support education initiatives for all in Pakistan, but in particular, for women and children. In Pakistan, approximately 22.8 million children under 16 are not enrolled in school. There is a significant gender disparity too as boys tend to outnumber girls.

This is the main reason for the Malala Yousafzai Act and Congress intends to uphold the very nature of equality. The purpose of the bill is to enhance opportunities for women to obtain a scholarship. If the bill passes, USAID will leverage the number of scholarships available to women in Pakistan.

Rurally, Pakistani women face many obstacles. The development of health, nutrition and the overall labor force is a determinant in the education of women. Issues such as early marriage, transportation and societal pressures as housewives prevent women from enrolling in higher education. The World Bank states, “The benefits of education go beyond higher productivity for 50 percent of the population. More educated women also tend to be healthier, participate more in the formal labor market, earn more income, have fewer children, and provide better health care and education to their children, all of which eventually improve the well-being of all individuals and lift households out of poverty.”

The Malala Yousafzai Act continues to mitigate discrimination and gender inequality. Malala Yousafzai frequently discusses the war on terrorism and how violence is a harsh reality for the vast majority of Pakistani women. These women continue to face seclusion and exclusion on the basis of patriarchy. Terrorists actively threaten girls and women to remove them from advancement opportunities in higher education and the public sphere.

Conclusion

For her 16th birthday, at the United General Assembly, Malala said, “So let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism. Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution.”

Currently, Malala is a student at the University of Oxford. She is studying politics, economics and philosophy. She continues to engage with women from across the globe, inspiring emerging adults to voice opinions. Anyone can make a direct impact by sending an email to Congress via The Borgen Project. For more information on how to advocate for the bill, visit here.

– Zach Erlanger
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai is a well-known Pakistani activist campaigning for education rights, particularly for young girls. In light of her mission and her extraordinary achievements, here are 12 facts about Malala Yousafzai.

12 Facts About Malala Yousafzai

  1. Malala was born in the Swat District of Pakistan. This region fell under the rule of the Taliban, which is a fundamentalist terrorist group that imposes highly restrictive rules on women and girls. The Taliban banned girls from attending school or receiving an education of any kind.
  2. Her father was a teacher and ran a chain of schools throughout the local region. He continuously encouraged all of his children to learn despite the societal restrictions. Malala credits her father for inspiring her to pursue further education and humanitarian work.
  3. Malala blogged for BBC for several years. In 2008, BBC Urdu journalists began looking for a young student to share private insight on what life was like under the Taliban. Despite the danger of being caught, Malala’s father recommended her for the assignment and she began blogging in secret, anonymously chronicling her life and her perspective on the rule of the Taliban. She was 11 years old.
  4. Malala started to gain notoriety from standing up to the Taliban publicly. With her father’s blessing, she openly opposed the Taliban rules set in place and began working to regain access to education for both herself and other girls throughout the region.
  5. She was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011 due to her activism and was awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize that same year. The Prime Minister of Pakistan later renamed the award the National Malala Peace Prize in her honor.
  6. The Taliban shot Malala in the head when she was 15 years old. Her newfound popularity and voice against the Taliban made Malala a high-profile target and in 2012 she was the victim of a nearly fatal assassination attempt. She was on the way home from school when a masked gunman asked for her by name and openly fired on her and her friends.
  7. She created the Malala Fund, a charity devoted to bringing equal education opportunities to girls around the world. Malala went to the United Kingdom for medical treatment directly after the shooter’s attack where she and her family settled permanently. Afterward, she established the Malala Fund with her father. Within its first year of operation, the Malala Fund raised over $7 million and opened up multiple schools in Malala’s native Pakistan.
  8. She celebrated her sixteenth birthday by giving a speech to the United Nations. Nine months after the assassination attempt, Malala spoke at invitation before world leaders and urged them to change certain policies in regard to education and women’s rights. Since then, Malala has held audience with notable political figures such as Queen Elizabeth and Former U.S. President Barack Obama and given lectures at Harvard University and the Oxford Union.
  9. July 12 has been officially designated Malala Day. After her critically acclaimed speech on her birthday at the United Nations, Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, urged all young people to speak out and let the world hear their voices. In an act of support, he declared Malala’s birthday Malala Day in honor of her courage and influential activism.
  10. She was a co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. After sharing her story, Malala catapulted to international fame and she received an outpouring of support from around the world as her story spread. In honor of her efforts, she became the youngest ever Nobel laureate at the age of 17.
  11. Malala received the United Nation’s highest honor. In 2017 she received the title of U.N. Messenger of Peace to promote girl’s education, a two-year appointment given to activists whose work has made an impact. The U.N. selects recipients carefully based on their future goals and past work, and the recipients engage closely with the United Nations’ leaders in an effort to make a change.
  12. Oxford University accepted Malala in 2017 where she began studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics. While pursuing her own studies, she currently still works with leaders and organizations around the globe on behalf of the Malala Fund and the United Nations, fighting for equal education for all.

While these 12 facts about Malala Yousafzai cannot encompass all of her achievements and work, they show that Malala’s bravery and perseverance have proven worthwhile in the face of adversity. Her goal to provide education to the world is a necessary step in ending global poverty.

“I raise my voice not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.” – Malala Yousafzai.

– Olivia Bendle
Photo: Flickr

Malala Yousafzai

In 2012, 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot three times by the Taliban because she was fighting for her right to attend school. Three years later, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner is creating a social movement through her activism regarding global education.

Now 18 years old, Yousafzai has called on the United States and other leading powers to devote more of their foreign policy to educational opportunities for needy children around the world.

“World leaders…are only focusing on six years of education, or nine years,” she said at a panel event co-hosted by Foreign Policy, Vital Voices, and the Malala Fund at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington. “This is not how we are going to achieve success in our future. It is necessary we provide 12 years of quality education to every child.”

Around the world, 57 million children of primary school age do not attend school, with half of these children living in sub-Saharan Africa. Out of these children, 54 percent who do not attend primary school are girls.

Yousafzai argues that leading world powers spend too much on their military forces and should promote, “Books, not bullets. Books, not bombs.”

According to the U.S. Department of Defense archives, $663 billion of the U.S. budget goes towards the military while a mere 0.1 percent is used for foreign aid, including global education.

As Yousafzai continues her global activism and promotion of the Malala Fund, the Nobel Peace Prize winner is finishing her high school education in England because she is afraid the Taliban will kill her if she tries returning to Pakistan.

While finishing school is her top priority, the activist also has a documentary being released on October 2. The documentary “He Named Me Malala” will follow Yousafzai’s life as she completes schoolwork, visits schoolgirls in Nigeria, and viewers will even have the opportunity to see the aftermath of the gunshot injuries as she undergoes surgery and physical therapy.

“I made a choice not to tell the global political story,” said film director Davis Guggenheim during the Q&A after the Telluride Film Festival screening. “As a father of two daughters, I wanted to tell the story of… why did this amazing girl happen?”

As the documentary’s release date to the public approaches, there are high hopes that the film will start a conversation and make a lasting impact on the current state of global education.

Alexandra Korman

Sources: BMZ, Fast Coexist, Foreign Policy, Los Angeles Times

Photo: Flickr

 

z1 Syria flagJuly 12 marked the 18th birthday of the Pakistani education activist and youngest-ever Nobel Peace laureate, Malala Yousafzai. Considering her continued advocacy for children’s education despite being shot by the Taliban, it should be of no surprise that she celebrated her 18th birthday by opening a secondary school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, near Syria’s border.

The Malala Yousafzai All-Girls School is supported by the Malala Fund, Yousafzai’s nonprofit organization, which believes every girl should be able to achieve her dreams through education. The school will serve 200 Syrian girls between the ages of 14 and 18 living in refugee camps in the Bekaa Valley region along the Lebanese border. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, Lebanon hosts more than 1 million of Syria’s 4 million refugees.

According to the Malala Fund’s blog, the school’s curriculum allows students to receive baccalaureate or vocational degrees through the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education. It also gives students who cannot commit to the four-year baccalaureate the option to receive skills that will aid them in finding work and generating their own incomes.

At the inauguration of the Malala Yousafzai All-Girls School, Yousafzi said “I am honored to mark my 18th birthday with the brave and inspiring girls of Syria. I am here on behalf of the 28 million children who are kept from the classroom because of armed conflict. Their courage and dedication to continue their schooling in difficult conditions inspires people around the world and it is our duty to stand by them […] On this day, I have a message for the leaders of this country, this region and the world — you are failing the Syrian people, especially Syria’s children. This is a heartbreaking tragedy—the world’s worst refugee crisis in decades.”

Malala also called on world leaders to invest in “books not bullets.” She had previously asked world leaders to give an additional $39 billion each year to secure 12 years of free schooling for children around the world. According to the Malala Fund:

  • 62 million girls are not attending school around the world;
  • The poorest girls only spend an average of 3 years acquiring an education;
  • There are 70 countries where girls have faced violence for trying to go to school.

Isn’t it time we changed that so the world’s poor can have the opportunity for a better life?

Paula Acevedo

Sources: The Malala Fund, NPR, PBS

Malala-Yousafzai-All-Girls-School-Syrian-Refugees
The Malala Yousafzai All-Girls School opened on July 12 to Syrian refugees—for girls who have fallen victims to displacement. Malala Yousafzai opened the school on behalf of the 28 million children who are kept from classrooms because of armed conflict. The event also marked Malala Yousafzai’s 18th birthday, of which she was proud.

Malala Yousafzai is no stranger to armed conflict, as she was attacked in her native Pakistan in 2012 because of her support and efforts to campaign for girls’ rights and education. For this brave act, Malala was in fact awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

Yousafzai currently believes that world leaders are failing Syria’s children. At the opening of the school she stated, “On this day, I have a message for the leaders of this country, this region and the world: you are failing the Syrian people, especially Syria’s children. This is a heart-breaking tragedy — the world’s worst refugee crisis in decades.”

That is why this school is one small step on Yousafzai’s part to help the children of the war-torn country. This effort is applauded by Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. He stated, “We are really heartened by Malala’s ardent support for the education of refugee girls whose aspirations have already been so cruelly cut short by war. These children are the future of Syria; we must not jeopardize that by denying them the basic right to education while they are in exile”.

The newly opened school will serve around 200 Syrian girls living in refugee camps in the Bekaa Valley region along the Lebanese border, to which many Syrians have fled.

This school will stand as a testament to the perseverance and strength of the Syrian children and hopefully become inspiration to the similar creation of future schools.

– Alysha Biemolt

Sources: Look to the Stars, UNHCR, PBS, Voanews
Photo: Sampsonia Way

The city of Peshawar, Pakistan mourns deeply in the wake of the Pakistani Taliban’s deadliest attack to date. An estimated 132 children and nine staff members were killed in a devastating massacre targeting a school in the northwest region, where gunmen and suicide bombers inflicted damage so horrific that even the Afghani Taliban have condemned their actions. Most of the victims were children of military families enrolled at Peshawar’s Army Public School.

On Wednesday, the Pakistani Army pointedly allowed numerous television crews to enter the school grounds, where they were able to observe the crime scene for themselves and broadcast those observations back to their respective audiences. Images captured by international news teams revealed the devastating extent of the brutality, showing classroom floors coated with blood, walls covered in hundreds of bullet holes, and rooms blown apart by suicide bombers.

The international community has collectively vocalized utter contempt over the massacre, and Pakistan was immediately consumed by a state of national outrage. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif responded by declaring three full days of mourning and announcing an abrupt end to the moratorium on the death penalty for terrorist actions.

This decision by Sharif is quite significant given the country’s past responses to terrorist groups. Despite the fact that terrorism in Pakistan has taken more than 50,000 lives since 2001, there has long existed a puzzling lack of a national consensus to fight terrorism. In the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s massacre, politicians refrained from publicly declaring whether they thought the Taliban had been behind the attack, even though the Tehreek-e-Taiban Pakistan, or TTP, had quickly claimed responsibility. The militants describe the Peshawar disaster as an act of revenge for an army attack that they claim killed approximately 1,000 of their own people.

The Taliban has a lengthy history of attacking schools. As an extremist group that first emerged in northern Pakistan in the early 1990s, the Taliban wields its own version of Islamic law as a major justification for and motivation behind its actions. The Pakistani Taliban adamantly opposes Western education for children, especially for girls. Education activists in Pakistan claim that this opposition is the Taliban’s way of trying to exert control over the population by keeping young people in the intellectual dark. An educated girl or boy represents a threat in the eyes of the Taliban, and the terrorist group actively works to eliminate these perceived threats through violence and oppression.

The Peshawar school massacre represents a departure from the Taliban’s usual school attacks. Militants in the past typically attacked schools while they were empty at night, specifically hoping to have the institutions shut down rather than directly harm students. The Taliban has also tried to threaten Pakistan’s education system by intimidating teachers and pressuring parents to quit sending their kids to class.

Some are beginning to question whether the Peshawar attack will force Pakistan to decidedly confront the terrorist group in a way it has generally refrained from doing in the past. Pakistan has long held an ambiguous view of Taliban militants, a phenomenon known as “good Taliban” and “bad Taliban” that for the past decade has baffled the Pakistani public and sent terribly mixed messages to the West. In the wake of the attack, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced “there will be no differentiation between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban,” while acting foreign minister Sartaj Aziz has described the tragedy as “our 9/11” and a “game changer.”

Shenel Ozisik

Sources: BBC 1, The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2, BBC 2
Photo: Flickr

In many developing countries, like Pakistan, education for girls is not a primary objective. The schools in these countries are often of poor quality. Consequently, many girls drop out during their elementary level school years, to help support their families.

When attending school does not necessarily guarantee learning, parents would rather have their children—especially girls—stay home to help the family.

The quality of Pakistan’s education stems from the country’s poverty.  Currently, measures are being taken in Pakistan to promote higher quality education that is accessible .

Khadim Hussain, an Echidna Global Scholar, founded Grace Association and has been working to develop Community School Networks (CSN). Over the last two years, the organization has been working to train local leaders to make a difference and improve the quality of education throughout the country for girls. The organization focuses on the importance of “the family, community, and the economy in the education of youth, and the core values of social justice, equity, and democracy in the design and implementation of educational programs.”

While Hussain tackles the issue of the quality education, Malala Yousafszai works to change social ideologies regarding women and the right to an education. Malala,  who fought for improved education and subsequently suffered a Taliban attack in October 2012 with two other friends for her culturally extreme ideas of equal education for girls in Pakistan, acts as a symbol of bravery and wisdom for the movement. On Dec. 10, 2014,  she was honored as the youngest to ever receive a Nobel Peace Prize for her courageous actions and words.

With the help of Malala and Hussain, education for girls in Pakistan is improving. Malala will continue to fight for what she believes to expand the opportunities for girls across the country. The friends of Malala continue to fight as well, saying “when you are educated, you are able to do everything. If you are not educated, you can’t do anything.”

– Erin Coughlin

Sources: Brookings, Education Innovations, WKYT
Photo: Flickr

nobel_peace_prize
By the age of 17, if a teenager has secured a part-time job, a driver’s license and takes home a good report card, they typically feel pretty accomplished. But 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai has already experienced and accomplished more than most do in a lifetime. On October 10, she added another accomplishment to her list: the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Kailash Satyarthi, “for their struggle against oppression of young people and children and children’s right to education,” Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee Thorbjorn Jagland said.

To get to this monumental point in her life, Yousafzai has been through incomprehensible trials, including threats against her life. But through it all, this young girl has been a beacon to the girls in undeveloped countries, in particular Pakistan.

Yousafzai’s story began in 2009, when the young girl took to a blog to transcribe her thoughts and feelings of the world around her, in her native home of Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan. The Taliban announced an edict that no girls were to be educated. Yousafzai, whose father is a schoolteacher, knew the value of education and chose to attend school, even after the edict was issued.

While journaling her days online, Yousafzai started to receive death threats from the Taliban. On Oct. 9, 2012, the threats came to life.

CNN reported of her attack, “[Gunmen] halted the van…demanded the other girls in the vehicle to identify her…she was pointed out. At least one gunman opened fire, wounding three girls.” The two girls survived the shooting and Malala sustained shots to the head and neck.

Malala underwent a surgery to remove the bullets, and doctors had to remove a part of her skull to reduce brain swelling. She was eventually taken to Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital in the U.K. via helicopter. This young girl who fought for her right to be educated now was fighting to recover from what could have been life-ending injuries. After close to three months, Malala was released from the hospital to rehabilitate in her family’s new home.

Word spread globally of the young heroine, resulting in the United Nations creating a global education campaign entitled, “I am Malala,” even proclaiming November 10 to be Malala Day, focusing on “’Malala and the 32 million girls like Malala not in school.”

Yousafzai recovered from her wounds and returned to school at Edgbaston High School for Girls in Birmingham, England. Since the ordeal, she has become a light for girls all over the world.

Yousafzai has created the Malala Fund, which focuses on educating girls in Pakistan, Kenya, Nigeria and the girls who are Syrian refugees in Jordan. She has also published a book entitled “I am Malala.”

This advocate for education and most recent recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize still has work cut out for her. A CNN infographic from 2012 showed over 4.5 million girls are still out of school in Pakistan.

Even though the statistic is staggering, Yousafzai’s influence can be seen in young girls in her home country. Ahmad Shah, who was an aide to Yousafzai’s father and an educator himself, asked a young girl what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her reply? “I want to become Malala Yousafzai to work for education and peace,” Shah recalled.

The world has its eyes on Malala Yousafzai for now and for the foreseeable future because she is sure to change the world, one little girl at a time.

– Kori Withers

Sources: CNN, CNN 2, The Washington Post, Nobel Prize
Photo: Flickr