Recently I saw an interview on the Daily Show that impressed me beyond words. Sixteen year old Malala Yousafzai is the most dignified, respectful, dedicated and determined young girl I have ever seen in my life.
Growing up in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, she has witnessed violence and oppression for most of her life. She would go to bed to the sounds of gunshots, and wake up to the news that the Taliban had burned yet another school for girls in their efforts to prevent the education of females.
Just those facts alone make her more brave than I could ever be. But Malala was braver still. At the age of 11, she started blogging about her experiences. Then she started speaking publicly. As she became more well known, she started receiving death threats. But she did not stop. She didn’t even slow down. By age 13 she was awarded the International Children’s Peace Prize and Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize. A secondary school was named in her honor.
And then when she was 14, a Talib entered her school bus, asked which one was Malala, and then shot her in the head. That could very well have been the end of the story. But Malala survived, and as is often the case with radical extremist stupidity, the Taliban, who tried to justify their horrendous actions, experienced a backlash of unprecedented proportions. 50 Islamic clerics spoke out against the Taliban and their use of religious justifications for their heinous acts.
Since then, Malala has gone on to speak before the United Nations and received several standing ovations. She has also spoken at Harvard University and has met with Queen Elizabeth and President Obama. She has done more for the world in 16 years than most people accomplish in a lifetime.
Because of that she was nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize (the youngest person ever to be so nominated), but unfortunately did not win. However, I suspect that we will be hearing more and more great things about Malala Yousafzai over the years, and I am looking forward to it with great anticipation.
If you would like to join Malala in the fight for education, which she correctly calls the most basic of rights, please donate to The Malala Fund today.
Malala Yousafzai, who has more than earned the right to her dignity.