You can’t even think about International Women’s Day without certain important and famous women coming to mind. One important woman that you may not have known of until recently, however, is still in her teen years and is already fighting to make a difference for women on a grand scale. Malala Yousafzai is a 16 year old girl from Pakistan who has fought for women’s rights since she was just 11 years old, specifically the right to be educated. This is important because regions of Pakistan run by the Taliban often refused to allow girls to attend school. Thus, at the early age of 11, Malala started to fight for her gender by telling reporters of their plight.
In 2009, on January 15th, a ban was placed on women attending school in her area. Though some continued to do so, the Taliban would destroy girls’ schools by the dozens. A little over a month later, on February 25th 2009, girls were allowed to return to school. Malala documented all of the events of these months for the world to see in her blog.
A documentary and several television appearances continued Malala’s efforts to raise awareness for the plight of young girls in Pakistan. At age 14, she received Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize (the first to receive the award) which only served to give her a higher profile on the local and world scene.
The Taliban tried to use fear to quiet this brave young girl. Threats came at her in the form of notes shoved under her door. Death threats were even posted in newspapers. Some threats even came in via Facebook. With Malala undeterred by these threats, the Taliban decided that drastic measures were necessary and actually hatch a plot to assassinate this young teenage girl.
At the age of 15, she was shot. The bullet struck her in the head, causing damage to part of her brain, but fast action on the part of responders to airlift her to a military hospital for immediate treatment kept her alive. She was moved to the UK for treatment, where she made a full recovery.
While she was in the hospital, an envoy from the UN visited her. A petition was launched in her name that demanded all girls be allowed to pursue an education by the year 2015. Then in 2013, Malala was actually able to speak at the UN in person. She was described as a hero by the UN Secretary General. More recently, her autobiography has been publish.
Malala Yousafzai is an example of how a woman of any age can make a difference by standing up for women’s rights. That is why we tell her story this week as we honor some of the women who represent the spirit behind International Women’s Day.