All of us have heard of Malala before, even if some of us know the absolute basics about her. She is one of our favourite feminist icons, and here is why! Malala is a staunch advocate of ‘education for all’, and has grown into a fierce feminist at the young age of twenty-two.
Her Brush with the Taliban
She is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and first came into the limelight when she was shot, in the head, for wanting to study. The Taliban’s influence was growing in Malala’s hometown of Swat Valley. In 2008, they issued a new rule forbidding girls from going to school. She was one of the few who was determined to empower herself through education, so she continued her schooling, and even went on to publicly speak about how education is a must for all.
Malala wrote an anonymous blog post for BBC Urdu about her fears concerning the future of Swat Valley and her enthusiasm towards education. She also went on to talk about the right to education with Hamid Mir, a Pakistani TV representative. In 2012, she was was shot by the Taliban at point blank range. She was just 15 years old at the time. Not only did she survive the shot, she rose from the flames as a Phoenix and went on to pursue her dreams of education at world’s premier institutions while simultaneously becoming a global spokesperson for right to education.
Poster Girl for Intersectionality
She is the poster girl for intersectionality. She understands that many cultures and traditions have very a limited understanding of feminism. However, she is the living, breathing proof that feminism is not a concept born from white privilege. It exists all over the world, and women from different oppressed classes have varying experiences affecting what feminism truly means. She is an advocate for girl’s education and still continues to influence the world with her words and experiences. She visited Nigeria in 2017 to highlight the education crisis. This further broadened her perspective on feminism in the real world. She has also visited Somalian and Syrian refugee camps to get an in depth understanding of the world’s problems.
Correcting Misconceptions Through Education
Like many, she had initially misunderstood what “feminism” means. She thought it meant superiority for women. But she decided to educate herself on the concept before putting her foot down, and was pleasantly surprised! Once she understood that the word inherently means equality for all, she embraced it. It is now a part of her identity and she openly claims to be a feminist. “Feminism is just another word for equality … and no one will object to equality,” she said. “It is very simple, it’s not as complicated as some people have made it.” If only the rest of the world had the sense to google the movement before blatantly dismissing it!
Education: The Key to Development
She truly believes that education is the key to all the world’s problems and advocates for it vehemently, especially for women. Malala trusts that through education, women can achieve equality and independence, as well as the confidence to fight for their own rights. She also trusts that education can liberate the whole world from various social issues which are currently weighing humanity down. Equality, eradication of poverty, and the end to violence: she believed all of these can be achieved through education, and we agree!
Calling Out Trump
She openly spoke about the blatant sexism practiced by Donald Trump during her interview at the Davos Open Forum. When asked about her message to Trump, she gave her honest opinion. It was dripping with disappointment over how the POTUS treats women. “I just get so disappointed to see that people are at these high positions — they talk against women, they do not accept women as equal, and they harass women. And it’s just shocking,” Malala said. She has also voiced her opinion on Trump’s infamous travel ban, and has expressed her disappointment there too. She never backs down from a fight, even if it could be with the most “powerful” man in the world, albeit of questionable capability and temperament!
Her Father’s Role
She recognises her father’s contribution in her personal development and understanding of the world. He was an education activist long before Malala; she inherited her understanding of the issue and right to education from him. She has talked about how her father moulded her thoughts and supported her through her journey of lobbying for education.
Malala turned twenty-two this year, and for someone so young, her voice has made quite a difference. Her age has never stopped her from confidently speaking out about what she believed was wrong and unjust. She studies herself, and promotes education every chance she gets. We could all stand to learn from her. She did not change her beliefs in the face of adversity and rose to speak her mind about it. That is truly worth admiring!