Young activist from Pakistan fights for girls

| March 26, 2013 | 0 Comments

In early February 2013, Malala Yousafzai underwent cranial reconstruction and cochlear implantation surgery at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham in the UK. It was not her first trip to the operating theatre.

Fifteen-year-old Yousafzai became a media sensation late last year when she was shot in the head at close range on her return from school in Swat Valley, Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. She was hospitalised immediately and then flown to the UK for urgent surgery. Yousafzai was a well-known activist in her country and around the world long before the attack.

Using the nom de plume Gul Makai, she blogged about how girls struggle to access their right to education in Pakistan, particularly under Taliban rule. In November 2011, she earned Pakistan’s National Peace Prize, winning 500 000 rupees, which will now be awarded annually to young people who contribute to education and nation building. She and her family were aware of frequent death threats.

A Taliban spokesperson, Ihsanullah Ishan, told American broadcaster CNN that Yousafzai was targeted for spreading feminist messages. “She wanted to make our women leave their homes for secular education, something the Taliban will never permit,” Ihsan said. As early as 2009, she blogged: “I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taliban. I was afraid going to school because the Taliban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools.”

Shortly after her latest surgery, Yousafzai appeared at a press conference wearing a traditional headscarf that hid any scars and declaring: “I want to serve the people. And I want every girl, every child, to be educated.”

Yousafzai’s activism and bravery have earned her a nomination for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. However, she says what’s most important to her is to fight for the rights of the estimated 32 million girls around the world who are denied a basic education.

Category: Autumn 2013

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