It is the norm for us here at Trinity, after completing fourteen years of primary and secondary education, to take for granted what we have. Education is the key to many of the world’s opportunities. It is wholly underappreciated. Academic work gets flack for it’s monotony, but it’s an immense privilege to be able to access an education. And, in the bubble of Trinity’s pretentiousness, it can be difficult to step outside its echo chamber. While I complained about early mornings in school, wearing an uncomfortable tie, and endless amounts of homework, Malala Yousafzai risked her own life to receive these privileges.
As a young woman, I am lucky enough to be in my 16th year of study. We consider our educational career as a given, albeit a stressful one. However, an astounding 130 million girls worldwide are in a very different position. From an early age, my mother instilled in me the importance of learning, and how powerful a tool it was. I was ignorant of this reality as a child, but as I became educated about young women’s education and it’s fragility, it became clear to me that education is by far the most forceful and propelling weapon we have.
“With her father being a school teacher, Malala was inspired to speak out against the injustice she and so many other young girls were facing.”
When it comes to inspiring women, we can look to Malala and her work for girl’s education as an activist. Malala grew up in Pakistan and when the Taliban took control of her town in Swat Valley, they banned girls from going to school. With her father being a school teacher, Malala was inspired to speak out against the injustice she and so many other young girls were facing. Her father, Ziauddin, is one of her most influential role models. In his TED Talk in 2014, he exclaimed profound admiration for his daughter. He acknowledged his pride in the young woman he had raised, celebrating her intelligence, bravery and determination. Ziauddin explained how he named his daughter after Malala of Maiwand, a national folk hero and freedom fighter. It is exhilarating to see that Malala has lived up to her inspiring namesake, carrying it forward and giving it a new propelling meaning for today’s generation.
Malala started campaigning when she was as young as 10 years old. Her continuous fight for equality in education resulted in her being shot in the head on her way to school. While we travelled to school for years in the safety of our cars with our parents or on the school bus, Malala risked everything she had to access the same opportunity. Girls across the globe should not have to fear their lives in order to access their right to education. Malala’s awareness and activism has inspired many worldwide campaigns in the fight for freedom and opportunity in third world countries.
“She has inspired young girls and given them access to countless educational opportunities, both safely and freely.”
Miraculously, after months of surgery, Malala survived the attack, and went on to create the Malala Fund, which fights to give every girl in the world an equal opportunity to receive education and unlock her potential. She has since received a Nobel Peace Prize for her work on the matter, and has gone on to graduate from Oxford University. Without a doubt, Malala is one of my biggest inspirations in life. She has endured more than she ever should have in her fight for equality. As a result, she has inspired young girls and given them access to countless educational opportunities, both safely and freely. When faced with death, Malala spoke louder, with more passion, with no fear. She was faced with the darkest moment, yet she turned it into light. In her own words, “It was then I knew I had a choice: I could live a quiet life or I could make the most of this new life I had been given”.
“After she was shot, millions of people in Pakistan signed a petition for the right to equal education, which resulted in the passing of their first ever Right to Free and Safe Education.”
After she was shot, millions of people in Pakistan signed a petition for the right to equal education, which resulted in the passing of their first ever Right to Free and Safe Education. Later, in 2014, Malala and her father started the Malala Fund, which “…invests in education activists and advocates who are driving solutions to barriers to girls’ education in their communities”. Today, almost nine years after that nearly-fatal day, Malala has successfully opened an all-girls school in her hometown, using the money from her Nobel Peace Prize. She continues to meet with world leaders and use her platform on social media and through her fund to continue the fight for females, advocating for equality, funding and protection for girls in education.
In the wake of International Women’s Day, we reflect on inspiring, strong, courageous women like Malala who continue to fight for basic human rights. These leaders come in many shapes and forms; whether they are the young women we read who campaign for change like Malala, or they are the women we have in our own lives, who inspire and empower us. Strong women are the way forward. In Malala’s own words, “If one man can destroy everything, why can’t one girl change it?”