Her story is now the stuff of legends, and she's probably one of the most courageous female leaders of our times. And, she's what? 18?
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. She is known mainly for human rights advocacy for education and for women in her native Swat Valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of northwest Pakistan, where the local Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school.
Her family runs a chain of schools in the region. In early 2009, when she was 11–12, Yousafzai wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC detailing her life under Taliban occupation, their attempts to take control of the valley, and her views on promoting education for girls in the Swat Valley. The following summer, journalist Adam B. Ellick made a New York Times documentary about her life as the Pakistani military intervened in the region. Yousafzai rose in prominence, giving interviews in print and on television, and she was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize by South African activist Desmond Tutu.
On the afternoon of October 9, 2012, Yousafzai boarded her school bus in the northwest Pakistani district of Swat. A gunman asked for her by name, then pointed a pistol at her and fired three shots. One bullet hit the left side of Yousafzai's forehead, travelled under her skin through the length of her face, and then went into her shoulder. On 12 October, a group of 50 Muslim clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwā against those who tried to kill her, but the Taliban reiterated their intent to kill Yousafzai and her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai. The assassination attempt sparked a national and international outpouring of support for Yousafzai. United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown launched a UN petition in Yousafzai's name, demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015; it helped lead to the ratification of Pakistan's first Right to Education Bill.
The 2013, 2014 and 2015 issues of Time magazine featured Yousafzai as one of "The 100 Most Influential People in the World". She was the winner of Pakistan's first National Youth Peace Prize, and the recipient of the 2013 Sakharov Prize. In July that year, she spoke at the headquarters of the United Nations to call for worldwide access to education. Later in 2014, Yousafzai was announced as the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Kailash Satyarthi, for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. Aged 17 at the time, Yousafzai became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.
You go, girl! You have a whole international movement right behind you.
Today is International Women's Day! There are thousands of organizations and women celebrating today. Personally, I'm going to my bellydance class to honor my femininity with some shimmies and bellyrolls (that's me, below on the left, in my last bellydance performance!). What are you doing to celebrate?
The Peace Corps and the White House announced earlier this week that it will double the number of countries participating in the Let Girls Learn Program. Let Girls Learn aims to provide greater access to secondary education for girls all over the world. There are a plethora of reasons why girls don't receive a high school level education:
Many secondary schools are more expensive and parents choose to pay to educate sons rather than daughters
Students have to walk long distances, sometimes in unsafe places to get to school
Girls are shamed out of school for having their periods
The list goes on. The Peace Corps and their Volunteers are trying to solve these problems one by one, working with community leaders to identify ways to make school more accessible and empowering for girls. Now, they're going to work in 35 countries this year.
Support the Peace Corps and their outstanding efforts to educate and empower girls all over the globe!
Since so many people wanted to celebrate contemporary women for our super heroes Wicked Women Wed, I decided to do contemporary women this week. So far, the nominations include: Hillary Clinton, First Lady Michele Obama, Malala, Yoani Sanchez, all Mothers everywhere, Gabby Giffords, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
Who do you think is a wicked (awesome) contemporary woman? Nominations are accepted via Facebook comments, Twitter and e-mails to rachel at rachelmannino dot com.
The winning nominator gets a prize, and this week I may impersonate the winning Wicked Awesome Woman! But - if you want to see the video, you have to sign-up for my e-mail list!
I write about power dynamics in relationships, the empowerment of women, and the ethical and moral dilemmas love can create in our lives. This is a space where I meditate on those themes and share them with the word. Who knows, my next novel may start right here...