If you haven’t heard of Malala Yousafzai by now, where have you been hiding? The 19-year-old activist was first thrust into the spotlight in 2013 with the release of her book, the best-selling I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. Her memoir details her upbringing in Pakistan and the Taliban’s influence in her hometown. The education system faced major obstacles, with restrictions on females’ education rights. As Yousafzai began to speak out in her community and began receiving news coverage, she soon became a target. In 2012, a gunman from the Taliban shot a 15-year-old Yousafzai, which propelled her further into the international spotlight.
The event, and Yousafzai’s recovery, only made her more empowered to fight for her cause. What followed in the next few years were countless speeches, the creation of funds and school openings. In 2013, Yousafzai spoke before the United Nations and soon met with President Barack Obama. In 2014, Yousafzai became the youngest recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her involvement in helping children speak out for their rights to education.
Most recently, Yousafzai earned the title of UN Messenger of Peace. Messengers of Peace are “distinguished individuals” who are recognized for their “time, talent and passion for raising awareness of the UN’s efforts to improve the lives of billions of people everywhere.” Current Messengers include Jane Goodall, Yo-Yo Ma, Michael Douglas and Charlize Theron.
During the event, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said, “You are not only a hero, but you are a very committed and generous person, and the person that has this fantastic quality… People usually when they get all these honors become full of vanity, they become difficult to access, but you are this fantastic example of friendship and simplicity that really makes us very, very, very appreciative. You are a symbol of perhaps the most important thing in the world: education for all.”
Following the prize-giving, Yousafzai will be meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss education and community sustainability.
If Yousafzai can accomplish all this at just 19, we can only imagine what she’ll do in the future. Congrats, Malala!