Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai recently graduated with her degree in the prestigious program, Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) in Lady Margaret Hall at the University of Oxford.
Lady Margaret Hall is renowned for being the first constituent college of the University of Oxford to admit women into it when 9 women attended upon its foundation in October 1879. She will realise her lifelong ambition of becoming a politician and advocating for access to education, especially for women.
Born in Mingora, Pakistan, Malala is lauded for being the youngest Nobel prize Laurette, for her Nobel Peace Prize she received at age 17 for her role in advocating for girls’ education in Pakistan and around the world. Her inspiring journey from blogging schoolgirl to Nobel prize winner only spans her life to a time before she entered higher education herself.
Malala’s activism began at age 11 when the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, otherwise known as “The Taliban”) closed down her school, Khushal Girls High School and College. Malala and her family fled the region to Peshawar following increases in tensions, persecutions and violence. She began to make her press appearances there, speaking out against school closures for girls. By then, The Taliban had an edict that no girls could attend school after January 2009.
Her activism increased when she began writing for a BBC blog, the BBC Urdu Blog shortly after this edict. Once her series of diaries ended, Malala and her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, were approached by New York Times reporter, Adam B. Ellick, as part of a documentary being filmed on the situation in Pakistan.
It was around this time the Yousafzai family began to experience intimidation and threats of violence from the Taliban for Malala’s activity. It culminated on October 9th 2012 when Malala’s schoolbus home from an exam in Pakistan’s Swat Valley was boarded by members of the Taliban looking for her. She was shot through the left side of her head, above her left eye.
An injured Malala was airlifted to a military hospital in Peshwar before being transferred to an intensive care unit in Birmingham, England. Whilst recovering, she was visited by UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown (a former British Prime Minister).
This was the day the slogan “I am Malala” gained prominence. It was a slogan for a petition launched that day "in support of what Malala fought for” to ensure that "girls like Malala everywhere will soon be going to school", and no child would be deprived of education by 2015.
Malala’s activism gained and maintained worldwide attention as it expanded and increased exponentially in scope and reach. In 2013, on her birthday, July 13th, she addressed the United Nations with an audience of Queen Elizabeth II. She called for worldwide access to education and the day was dubbed “Malala day”.
Along with her father Ziauddin, Malala spoke before a number of renowned and famous people and institutions. In September that year, she spoke at Harvard University and met with then US President, Barack Obama and his family the following month. The year concluded with her address to the Oxford Union, an institution she would later regularly debate at over the course of her attendance at the University. She was the youngest person to appear before at the time.
But the most significant event of 2013 was her establishment of the Malala Fund, which aims to “break down the barriers preventing more than 130 million girls around the world from going to school.” As of 2020, Malala Fund staffs over 30 people and receives grant up to five million euro in total annually. In 2019, it secured a $2.9 billion commitment for girls’ education form g7 countries and the World Bank.
Her worldwide sensation biography, “I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban” was also published that year.
Malala’s activism, however, was not met with universal acclaim. In 2015, her book was banned by the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation (APPSF). Along with that, the president, Mirza Kashif Ali, released a book I Am Not Malala. The majority of Pakistani people hold negative views of her, and her arrival in 2018 was greeted by hostility and vile comments online. The reaction to her in her home country is a familiar one, and not dissimilar to that experienced by those advocating for similar ideals in Western countries.
Malala began her studies at the University of Oxford in August 2017. Her journey can be seen in a number of videos by Youtuber Vee Kativhu, a popular “studytube” youtuber also attending Oxford University. Malala can be seen in many of her vlogs and even the subject of a lot of her friend’s videos.
A list of Malala Yousafzai’s prizes and accolades:
- 2011: International Children's Peace Prize (nominee)
- 2011: National Youth Peace Prize
- January 2012: Anne Frank Award for Moral Courage
- October 2012: Sitara-e-Shujaat, Pakistan's third-highest civilian bravery award
- November 2012: Foreign Policy magazine top 100 global thinker
- December 2012: Time magazine Person of the Year shortlist for 2012
- November 2012: Mother Teresa Awards for Social Justice
- December 2012: Rome Prize for Peace and Humanitarian Action
- January 2013: Top Name in Annual Survey of Global English in 2012
- January 2013: Simone de Beauvoir Prize
- March 2013: Memminger Freiheitspreis 1525 (conferred on 7 December 2013 in Oxford)
- March 2013: Doughty Street Advocacy award of Index on Censorship
- March 2013: Fred and Anne Jarvis Award of the UK National Union of Teachers
- April 2013: Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards, Global Trailblazer
- April 2013: One of Time's "100 Most Influential People in the World”
- May 2013: Premi Internacional Catalunya Award of Catalonia, May 2013
- June 2013: Annual Award for Development of the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID)
- June 2013: International Campaigner of the Year, 2013 Observer Ethical Awards
- August 2013: Tipperary International Peace Award for 2012, Ireland Tipperary Peace Convention
- 2013: Portrait of Yousafzai by Jonathan Yeo displayed at National Portrait Gallery, London
- September 2013: Ambassador of Conscience Award from Amnesty International
- 2013: International Children's Peace Prize
- 2013: Clinton Global Citizen Awards from Clinton Foundation
- September 2013: Harvard Foundation's Peter Gomes Humanitarian Award from Harvard University
- 2013: Anna Politkovskaya Award – Reach All Women in War
- 2013: Reflections of Hope Award – Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum
- 2013: Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought – awarded by the European Parliament
- 2013: Honorary Master of Arts degree awarded by the University of Edinburgh
- 2013: Pride of Britain (October)
- 2013: Glamour magazine Woman of the Year
- 2013: GG2 Hammer Award at GG2 Leadership Awards (November)
- 2013: International Prize for Equality and Non-Discrimination
- 2014: Nominee for World Children's Prize also known as Children's Nobel Prize
- 2014: Awarded Honorary Life Membership by the PSEU (Ireland)
- 2014: Skoll Global Treasure Award
- 2014: Honorary Doctor of Civil Law, University of King's College, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
- 2014: 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, shared with Kailash Satyarthi
- 2014: Philadelphia Liberty Medal
- 2014: One of Time Magazine "The 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014”
- 2014: Honorary Canadian citizenship
- 2015: Asteroid 316201 Malala named in her honour.
- 2016: Honorary President of The Students' Union of the University of Sheffield
- 2016: Order of the Smile
- 2017: Youngest ever United Nations Messenger of Peace
- 2017: Ellis Island International Medal of Honour
- 2017: Wonk of the Year 2017 from American University
- 2017: Harper's Bazaar inducted Malala in the list of "150 of the most influential female leaders in the UK".
- 2018: Advisor to Princess Zebunisa of Swat, Swat Relief Initiative Foundation, Princeton, New Jersey
- 2018: Gleitsman Award from the Center for the Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School
- 2019: For their first match of March 2019, the women of the United States women's national soccer team each wore a jersey with the name of a woman they were honoring on the back; Carli Lloyd chose the name of Yousafzai.
In 2007, when Malala was ten years old, the situation in the Swat Valley rapidly changed for her family and community. The Taliban began to control the Swat Valley and quickly became the dominant socio-political force throughout much of northwestern Pakistan