Imagine you live in a country far away. It is a poor country with war and where girls are not allowed to go to school. But your parents are kind and smart. They think that boys and girls should both go to school and they want you to go to school too. But you are a girl and it is not allowed. What would you do?
This was the experience of a young girl named Malala Yousafzai. Malala was a girl from Pakistan. She was only 11 years old when she started to get noticed for standing up for girls rights. Malala was brave and strong and she stood up for what she believed and as a result, she ended up changing her country and the world.
Malala was born on July 12, 1997 in Mingora, Swat Valley, Pakistan. For the first few years of her life, Malala’s hometown was a popular place for people to visit on vacation. People from around the country would visit the town for summer festivals.
Unfortunately, the town and the country started to change when a new government took control of the country. A government is a group of people that make decisions about how a country will work and the rules that the people in the country will follow. In Pakistan at that time that Malala was a young girl, a very strict government called the Taliban tried to take control.
Malala lived at home with her father and mother when she was a girl. Her father’s name was Ziauddin Yousafzai and he was a schoolmaster at a local school and someone who believed strongly in his ideas that all children should go to school. Malala’s mother’s name was Toorpekai Yousafzai and she cared for Malala and her siblings.
The Taliban told people from Pakistan that they should not let girls go to school anymore. It was an old fashioned idea that they wanted to bring back to the country. However, Malala’s father disagreed with this idea. He thought that all kids should get to go to school so that they could learn important life skills and take care of themselves and get good jobs.
Malala’s father ran one of the last girls schools that continued to run even though the Taliban government told all the girls schools to shut down. Instead of listening to the government’s orders, Malala’s dad kept letting girls to attend his school, including Malala. He encouraged her to speak out about what the government was doing. Malala learned from a very early age that this was very important to girls and to her country.
Malala listened to her father and on September 1, 2008, when she was 11 years old, she gave her first speech at a community hall in Peshawar. The title of her speech was, “How Dare the Taliban Take Away my Basic Right to Education?” It was a speech that was about her opinion that the Taliban government should not close down girls schools or forbid them from attending.
It was a scary time in Pakistan for people to speak out about the government. The Taliban government was very strict and very powerful. Strict means to tell people that they have to behave a certain way and exactly what they have to do so they won’t get in trouble. They scared Malala and others who spoke out about them and disagreed with what they were doing.
Because Malala did not want to get in trouble, she started writing using a fake name to write articles: Gul Makai. She wrote articles on the internet for a famous news company from Britain called the BBC. Malala wrote about what it was like to live with such a strict government and the articles were published for people from all around the world to see. She thought she was safe because her identity was secret. However someone found out who she was and told other people that it was Malala who was writing the articles.
The Taliban government was angry at Malala for saying bad things about them and the things that they believed and their rules. They decided that they wanted to kill Malala and her family so that she could not speak out about them anymore.
Even though Malala was frightened for safety and her family’s safety, she didn’t think think that Taliban government would hurt her because she was a kid and so she carried on with her speeches. One day when she was 15 years old and riding the bus home from school, some Taliban people got on the bus and shot her. She was hurt very badly but she did not die.
Malala needed to go to a special hospital, so she got flown out of her country of Pakistan on an airplane to England. Once she was in England, she was safe from the Taliban government but she was still very hurt. She had to have a number of surgeries at a hospital in order to get better. She healed very well and within one year, she was able to start going to school again. This time she stayed in England and went to school there.
Later that year, after Malala was feeling better, she was invited to speak at the United Nations in New York City, in America. It was the first time that she spoke in public again since she was attacked. Malala’s speech was on her 16th birthday and her topic was on the rights of every child to go to school. She said in her speech that all governments around the world should make policies that allow girls to go to school. Policies means a rule or law that allows people to do something.
In the speeches she gave after her attack, Malala talked about the courage that she had developed after her injury. She said that the Taliban government “thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born.”
Malala received a lot of awards for her bravery. When she was 15 she published a book about her life called, “I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World”. One of the most important awards that she received was the United Nations Human Rights Prize, which is an important award that is only given every five years.
Another important award Malala received was the Nobel Peace Prize. She was 17 when she received it, and she was the youngest person to ever get the award. When Malala won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif said: Malala “is (the) pride of Pakistan, she has made her countrymen proud. Her achievement is unparalleled and unequaled. Girls and boys of the world should take lead from her struggle and commitment.”
At the same time, former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Malala was “a brave and gentle advocate of peace who, through the simple act of going to school, became a global teacher.” At Malala’s 2013 speech at the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that July 12th, which is Malala’s birthday, would now be called ‘Malala Day’. This was in honor of the work that Malala to ensure education for all children.
Today Malala continues to do work to try to help children around the world. She has worked hard to raise money so that other girls can go to school. She is now going to university to study philosophy, politics and economics. These are subjects that teach people how the world works and how to make it a better place through rules and policies. Malala plans to continue to work to make the world a better place for all children. She also wants to keep making sure that girls all around the world can go to school.
Is there something that you think would make the world a better place? Is there something that you notice is unfair to yourself, your family or to others? Think about the things that would be good to change in the world around you to make the world a fair and positive place for all people. Perhaps there are people you know that don’t have a lot of money? Or people that are not treated well? If there are things in the world that you think should be changed, you can change them!
Malala was taught from a young age that there is power in words and in speaking up for what you believe in. If there are things you can see that would make the world better, you can help by speaking to others about what you believe and by standing up for those who need help. It is important that we all think about the things we can do to make the world a better place. And is important that we have courage to speak out about the things that are unfair or unkind.
Courage means to be brave even when you are scared. Malala was brave by standing up for girls’ rights to go to school, even when the Taliban government told her not to. She continued to speak out about this even if it meant that she may get hurt, because she knew it was an important topic. Going to school is one of the most important ways that people can learn to create a good life for themselves and others. So it is equally important that both boys and girls go to school.
We can all learn from Malala about the importance of education and about the importance of conviction, or staying true to your beliefs. Even when it is difficult, it is important to stick with what you believe in and work towards creating a positive world for yourself and others.
Malala’s bravery had many positive impacts. One of the most important things that happened because of her bravery was the attention that her story brought to the issue about girls going to school in Pakistan. As a result, Pakistan created its very first Right to Education Bill, which said that all children have the right to go to school.
What would you like to do to change the world for the better? What can you do to stand up for others and make the world a better place like Malala?