The story of Malala Yousafzai

No matter your past traumas, or the challenges you face ahead, you should never hold yourself back from achieving your dreams. Sometimes it may seem easier to hold off, or delay, to protect yourself from potential harm, rejection, dismissal, and the worry of not being good enough to achieve them. Your past ordeals and the anxiety may feel too overwhelming. Malala Yousafzai was once in the same position after having suffered the worst type of trauma, but she did not let her fears stop her from helping others and achieving her goals.

Malala was born in Mingora, a small city in Pakistan in 1997. While welcoming a baby girl is not always cause for celebration in Pakistan, Malala’s father Ziauddin was determined to give her every opportunity a boy would have. Since he was a teacher running a girls’ school in her village, he ensured Malala started out with a good education. Malala loved attending school, seeing her friends everyday and she enjoyed learning, but everything changed when the Taliban took control of her town. The terrorist group banned many things, like owning a television and playing music, and enforced harsh punishments for those who defied their orders. 

It was widely claimed that female education is against Islamic law. So extremists from the Taliban destroyed school buildings, killed hundreds of teachers and students and terrorised girls seeking an education. As a result, 900 girls’ schools were closed, ending the education of more than 120,000 girls. 

When Malala was just 11 years old, she was forced to say goodbye to her classmates, not knowing when she would see them again. Early the following year Malala used a male name and began blogging for the BBC about living under the Taliban’s threats. Her identity was revealed in December of that year. With growing public popularity, Malala continued to speak out about her right, and the right of all girls, to an education and she was nominated for multiple Peace Prizes in Pakistan in 2011.

These achievements came with great risk to her and her family; a death threat was  issued against her.  Malala was frightened for her safety and that of her family but she doubted that they would actually carry out the threat. In October 2012, when 15 year old Malala was on her way home from school, a masked gunman boarded her school bus and asked, “Who is Malala?” Her location was given away as her friends worriedly looked toward her and the gunman fired. Malala was hit on the left side of her head and the bullet traveled down her neck. Two other girls were also injured in the attack.

The shooting left Malala in critical condition, and she was flown to a military hospital in Peshawar. A portion of her skull was removed to treat her swelling brain. She was transferred to Birmingham, England to receive further care. After 10 days, Malala awoke and the doctors and nurses told her about the attack, and that people around the world were praying for her recovery. After months of surgeries and rehabilitation, she joined her family in their new home in the U.K. and in March 2013, she was able to begin attending school.

Her new life in Birmingham came with its own challenges. While Malala and her family were safe, living in a different country, they felt like they had landed on the moon. Nothing was familiar, and while she could now study without fearing for her life, she got lost in such a large school building. She even felt lonely as the other girls in her class sat in clusters and spoke at lightning speed in a language she was still learning. She sorely missed her friends from her hometown and found it difficult adjusting to her new life.

What helped her jump over this next hurdle? Malala received thousands of touching letters from people around the world: young girls and women thanking her for standing up for their rights. The shooting resulted in a massive outpour of support for her.  It was then she knew she had a choice: she could live a quiet life or make the most of this new life she had been given. Despite still being a target to the Taliban, she was determined to continue to fight until every girl could go to school. 

With the support of her father, she established the Malala Fund, a charity dedicated to giving every girl an opportunity to determine her own future. In recognition of her work, she has won multiple prizes. In October 2013, the European Parliament awarded Malala the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and the following year she became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, at just 17 years old!

Today Malala is safe and has graduated from one of the top global institutions, studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford. Her charity is well respected and Malala travels to many countries to meet girls fighting poverty, wars, child marriage and gender discrimination. She continues to fight to ensure all girls receive 12 years of free, safe, quality education. 

Malala’s story shows how one can accomplish great things despite past trauma. In fact Malala’s traumatic, life threatening experience spurred her on to accomplish a greater good. While the Taliban extremists aimed to weaken her, they failed enormously. Instead of silencing her, her voice was amplified beyond Pakistan making her stronger than ever before. Malala is proof that by pushing through your fears, working hard and having faith in your abilities, you can achieve much much more than you thought possible.

Follow Fresh Charity to read more inspiring stories like Malala’s and know that you’re not alone! 

Written by: Robin Ferdous