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Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban because her advocacy for young girls’ education threatened their control over her hometown of Mingora in Pakistan. Malala had been blogging for the BBC about her experience living under the Taliban rule in Pakistan since 2009. At first she hid her identity and wrote under the name Gul Makai, though this only lasted a few months. The previous year she had given a speech in Peshawar titled “How dare the Taliban take away my right to an education?”, which moved thousands of people and built her support. She continued to speak out about women’s education in Pakistan and won two Youth Peace Prizes in 2011. But in 2012, two members of the Taliban boarded her school bus as she travelled home from school, called her name and shot her.
The bullet hit the left side of her head and travelled down her neck. She should have died or been paralysed for the rest of her life, but Malala began attending school in England in March 2013 after multiple surgeries. Following the Taliban’s attack, her campaign for education for women continued to grow as she gained thousands more supporters.
Malala’s moving autobiography, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, was released at the end of 2013. In 2014, Malala was the youngest person to ever receive a Nobel Peace Prize. On her 16th birthday, following her recovery, she gave a speech at the UN.
Malala turned 18 last Sunday. Instead of going out and getting pissed like the rest of us, she used some money from her charity, the Malala Fund, to open a school in Lebanon for young Syrian refugee girls. At the opening, Malala said she was “here on behalf of the 28 million children who are kept from the classroom because of armed conflict”. This inspiring young woman has spent the better half of her life advocating for people that would otherwise have no voice, despite being targeted by the Taliban since she was 15 years old. Her dedication to finding an education for other young women in countries of conflict is unmatched by anyone else, adult or teenager. I wholeheartedly recommend reading her autobiography, and a documentary about her life is being released in October this year.