Image from NBC News.
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for women’s education and the youngest person to win a Nobel Prize. In October 2012, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman for speaking out in favor of education for girls, and thankfully, she survived. She established the Malala Fund, an organization that advocates for female education and empowerment, and in 2014, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work. Years later, in 2020, Malala has just graduated from Oxford University with a degree in philosophy, politics, and economics.
I remember when Malala was shot. I didn’t know about her or her activism, but following her recovery, I decided to do some research and found in her an inspiring role model. Malala is living proof of the resilience of women in the face of a suppressive male-centric society that spans across cultures and continents. She’s an example of the power and strength in all of us, and of the importance of education and its role in our formation. Education inequality permeates the American school system, and there are clear relationships between social class and academic performance.
Malala’s organization aims to break down barriers to education, such as poverty, discrimination, and other forms of inequality, and I, for one, think this deserves more attention. Education is crucial in building our understanding of society and the world around us in relation to ourselves and others – it’s the place where either understanding or prejudice can be born. The whitewashing of history also plays an important role in the perpetuation of White privilege, and neglecting to tell the real stories of how BIPOC, women, and queer communities have been oppressed and marginalized is not only a disservice to said communities, but to the children being taught a version of history made by White people in power and for White comfort.
Malala’s story is just one among several stories of advocacy for education and equality, but sadly, most of these stories go unheard. So we need to listen and pay attention but also do research. Actively seek out activists to look up to and emulate: find your Malala. The world needs more people like her; in fact, we should all be like her. Call out injustice, speak out against the systems of oppression, be proactive. You don’t need to be an Oxford graduate with a moving story to make a difference. You can make a difference.
Had you heard Malala’s story before?