People who turn a personal tragedy into a future triumph are always to be admired.
But when the person is a 15-year-old girl from a country where women’s rights are constantly threatened, that’s inspirational.
Such is the story of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who stood up to the Taliban for her right to an education from the age of 11—and at 15 survived an assassination attempt because of her stand—before moving with her family to live in safety in Britain.
Malala was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest ever recipient of that prestigious award.
Fast forward to 2017, and the now 20-year-old Malala has been offered a place at Oxford University, a rather fitting result for someone who was nearly killed for trying to get an education for herself and all other young females in Pakistan.
Apart from her bravery in standing up for girls’ right to an education, Malala has been active in supporting charities including Free the children, Save the Children and the United Nations Foundation.
But it’s through her own Malala Fund that she is trying to change the world for girls who live where education is a luxury denied them by forces such as the Taliban.
On the Malala Fund website, its work is described as “working for a world where every girl can learn and lead without fear”. The fund focuses its work in regions where most girls miss out on secondary education, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and countries such as Lebanon and Jordan, which house Syrian refugees.
In April this year, Malala was made the youngest ever United Nations Messenger of Peace, with UN Secretary-General António Guterres telling Malala, “Your foundation has schools in Lebanon, in the Bek’a Valley. You are a symbol of perhaps the most important thing in the world, education for all.”
In accepting the award, Malala stressed how close to her heart is the desire to bring education to all.
“Bringing change starts with us and it should start now. If you want to see our future right, you have to start working now, not wait for anyone else,” she said.
When she was recovering from the terrorist attack that nearly took her life, Malala had plenty of time for reflection and, far from deterring her, the attack made her more determined to fight for equal access to education.
“Extremists tried everything to stop me. I have a second life for the purpose of pressing for education and I’ll continue working on this,” she said.
Malala was interested in activism from an early age, saying she was inspired to fight for what is right by Pakistani female Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007.
Malala herself has inspired people across the globe, from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who nominated her for the International Children’s Peace Prize, to former US president Barack Obama, who invited Malala to the White House. And American singer Madonna dedicated the song ‘Human Nature’ to her at a Los Angeles concert after Malala’s attempted assassination.
Life has come full circle for the girl from Pakistan who became a human rights crusader at great personal cost to herself. With her dedication to ensure that her sisters across the world have the right to education, it seems fitting that Malala herself has been invited to study at one of the world’s most prestigious educational institutions.
Given this, Malala is a fine example of the words Jesus said to his disciples—“For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke chapter 6, verse 37).