Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai vows to never stop advocating for girls’ education
Malala Yousafzai has used her high profile to help more girls access education. (ABC News: Christine Wei)
When a Taliban gunman shot Malala Yousafzai on her way home from school in Pakistan’s Swat Valley region six years ago, they thought they had silenced her and ended her education.
It didn’t work.
Today, Malala is a student at Oxford University and her voice for the education of girls is louder and more far reaching than ever.
“They wanted to silence us for speaking out in Swat Valley,” Malala told 7.30.
“It feels like they made a mistake.
“They wanted to silence one girl, but now there are millions and millions of girls around the world who are speaking out for girls’ education.
“I not only speak out for 50,000 girls who are out of school in Swat Valley. But [for] 130 million girls around the world.”
‘I carry on the mission’
Malala Yousafzai recuperating at the The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham after being shot in Pakistan. (Reuters: Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham)
Despite the adversity she’s faced in her life, Malala continues to spread her campaign about the importance of girls’ education.
“It’s a big call,” she said. “How do you get 130 million girls in school?
“Their future is in school, their future is in learning and if we want to give them their future then we have to speak out and invest in their education.
“This is the call that I get every morning, from all those 130 million girls, to do something.
“And I carry on the mission.”
For many girls and women in developing countries, education is crucial to liberating them from the restrictive confines of society.
Without an education, girls are likely to continue to have children early and perpetuate the cycle of disadvantage for women.
“It was not just an extremist ideology of the Taliban,” Malala said.
“This ideology is based on social norms as well.
“They keep women in their houses and do not allow them to study.
“Their life is just limited to their house, they cannot explore themselves and show themselves.”
But the road to global reform is not without challenges, and Malala tells herself she must keep going.
“There can be disappointments when you look at the lack of government investment towards education,” she said.
“But then I think, if I stop, then who will speak out?”
An act of defiance
Malala’s father was an outspoken activist against the Taliban, and something of an inspiration for her.
“He is a very active women’s rights activist,” she said.
“He was a feminist before we knew the word feminism.
“His own five sisters could not go to school, so he wanted to make sure what his sisters did not get he could give to his daughter.”
Her father knew that by speaking out he would become a target for the Taliban.
“We were not expecting them to target a young person, especially a young girl.
“We were thinking, even though they were the most cruel people I have ever seen, they might have a bit of sympathy.”
Global fight continues ‘no matter what’
Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi at the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony (Reuters/Cornelius Popp)
In 2014, Malala became the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize.
And the increased profile has made her mission a bit easier.
“We do see progress, but we’re not there yet,” she said.
Across the world, there has been an increase of activism for girls’ education with support from the United Nations, the European Union and the Global Partnership for Education.
Her non-profit organisation the Malala Fund has also partnered with Apple, increasing the number of girls they can help and expanding their reach into India and Latin America.
Earlier this year, she returned to Pakistan for the first time since being attacked.
“I could not go to Pakistan for five years and I always felt something was missing from my life,” she said.
“I went to see my friends and family, more than 6-700 people, so lots of hugs and prayers and selfies.
“But I also saw my home, my old street where we used to play with friends, school trophies, books, my drawings, everything was there.”
It is a visit she hopes to repeat when she has finished her university studies.
“I do hope after my education I can go back, but my global fight will continue,” she said.
“That continues no matter what, no matter where I live or what I do.”