Before learning about Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani girl that was shot for speaking up about girls’ right to education, most of my heroines were fictional. Strong girls that made a difference only existed in movies and tv shows. Girls that braved danger for their beliefs only existed in people’s imaginations, I had thought. They didn’t seem real to me, not until Malala.
Born in Pakistan, where many girls are not afforded the right to an education, Malala was lucky to have parents that encouraged her love of learning and desire for formal education. As the Taliban took over control of her region, girls’ access to school was completely forbidden. She briefly chronicled her life for the BBC through an anonymous blog and began attending school again as the Taliban lifted some of the restrictions. After becoming a refugee, her activism began, and she appeared in the paper and on the news advocating for education equality. She was shot on her way home from school in 2012. In 2014 she was the youngest person to receive a Nobel Prize at the age of 17.
I was 16 when news of Malala being shot went around the world. I felt horror and dread, and I wondered how a girl only a few years younger than me could be so brave in the face of death. She made me want to be a better girl. A girl that fought for others and stood up for what I believed. Many girls will never have to face what Malala had to in their lifetimes, but we can still work to make a difference. She made me the activist and educator I am today.
Even though Malala is no longer a young girl, she is still uplifting girls around the world. In college, I got to see her speak live. While her fight for girls’ education continues, I can’t wait to see what she will do in the future.
– Alexis Walker
Girl Museum Inc.