Malala Yousafzai: A modern-day woman hero

On Oct. 9, 2012, a Taliban gunman boarded Malala Yousafzai’s bus on its way home from school in Mingora, Pakistan. After demanding to know which student Malala was, the gunman shot her on the left side of her head.

How did we get to this moment? What thoughts ran through Yousafzai’s mind as she stared down the barrel of a gun, confronted by a man seeking her blood?

I imagine Yousafzai remembered her life. I imagine she was not afraid.

Imagine that it is July 12, 1997. Malala Yousafzai is born in Mingora, Pakistan, a popular tourist location until the Taliban begin seeking power.

Fast-forward to September 2008, when Yousafzai is 11-years-old.

The Taliban has just attacked the school that her father founded. In response, she gives a speech in Peshawar, Pakistan, titled, “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education.” Just a year later, she begins blogging for the BBC under a pseudonym to expose the ways that her education has been threatened. Her acts of courage only continue, and she is awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize in 2011. By the time Yousafzai turns 14, she and her family are aware that the Taliban wants her dead.

By Oct. 9, 2012, Yousafzai is on the bus, a bullet through her head.

She is flown to a military hospital in Peshawar, then to England for further care. A BBC radio broadcast regarding Yousafzai’s critical condition is sent out; it includes a recorded excerpt of Yousafzai reading from her own blog.

In that recording, Yousafzai stated, “I will serve my people. I will speak for the right of education, and I will speak for the girls.”

Thankfully, Yousafzai survives the gunshot wound with no major head injuries.

Yousafzai’s powerful words and determination catch the world’s attention and draw global recognition to her and to her cause.

In Oct. 2013, the European Parliament acknowledges Yousafzai’s work by granting her the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. A year later, at just 17 years old, she is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Since setting the record for being the youngest Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Yousafzai has been hard at work.

In April of this year NASA gave Yousafzai her own asteroid, a historic feat.

Amy Mainzer, a NASA astronomer, said that “many asteroids have been named, [but] very few have been named to honor the contributions of women (and particularly women of color)….If anyone deserves to have an asteroid named after them, [Yousafzai] does!”

For her 18th birthday, Yousafzai opened a school in Lebanon for Syrian refugee girls. The school’s expenses are funded entirely by the Malala Fund, and intended for about 200 girls from ages 14-18.

While standing in one of the classrooms, Yousafzai said, “Today, on my first day as an adult, on behalf of the world’s children, I demand of leaders [that] we must invest in books instead of bullets.”

This phrase hit the media, with women everywhere posting photos of themselves with their favorite book and the hashtag #booksnotbullets.

Despite being sought after by news organizations and admired in various forms of social networks, Yousafzai’s most recent achievement has been in the film industry.

This October, a documentary entitled “He Named Me Malala” was released in theaters in her honor. The documentary is directed by filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, and portrays Yousafzai’s relationship with her father which inspired her to fight for education around the world.

However, the Pakistani government has implemented little measurable progress for women.

In 2014, the World Economic Forum ranked Pakistan as the “least gender equitable [country] in the Asia and Pacific region.” In a 2012 study, UNESCO compared Pakistan to countries in the same region, and according to the study, “the poorest girls in Pakistan are twice as likely to be out of school as the poorest girls in India, almost three times as likely as the poorest girls in Nepal and around six times as likely as the poorest girls in Bangladesh.”

For this very reason, Yousafzai continues to advocate education for girls.

As a woman of action, Yousafzai sets a good example to follow.

As Christians, we learn that we are supposed to provide a voice to the voiceless. We read in Scripture that we are to love the deprived. We listen to pastors preach about Christ’s great example of love in chapel and at church.

We should strive to do more than listen—we should strive to be doers.

We should look to the doers of the world, the ones who are out in the dirt and the dysfunction, trying to do what needs to be done.

We should be like Malala Yousafzai.

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