Malala Day: a celebration of fearless and trailblazing feminists
The story of Malala Yousafzai could have easily ended in tragedy.
Like many young women living in oppressive regimes, her attempts to stand up for what's' right was met with a brutal attempt to silence her: at just fifteen years old, whilst other Year 11s were thinking about their GCSES and what to wear when hanging out with their friends, Malala was shot in the head on a school bus by the Taliban. Her crime? Getting an education.
From a tender age, it was clear that Malala was unable and unwilling to live in a culture of injustice.
She was determined to make social change and to raise awareness of the difficult circumstances she faced living in a Taliban-occupied area of Pakistan.
Subsequently, between the ages of 11 and 12, she wrote anonymous blogs for BBC Urdu detailing the injustices and struggles she faced in her life; specifically, the struggles of living life as a girl who desperately wanted to be educated, but was met with constant opposition due to the Taliban's rigid ideas about what a woman should do as opposed to what a woman can do.
At any age, risking one's own safety to expose tyranny is an extremely bold move—let alone for someone who wasn't even in their teens yet.
However, Yousafzai continued to take more and more risks. Just under a year after she blogged for BBC Urdu, she waived her anonymity to participate in a New York Times documentary, which focussed on her life in occupied Pakistan. She was then interviewed for several publications and awarded the Children's Peace Prize by Desmond Tutu.
Living in such a hostile environment, it would have been undeniably safer for Malala to stay under the radar, and to live her life drawing as little attention to herself as possible. Malala is clearly intelligent: she knew the risks that would arise from being an activist, but that didn't stop her. She showed that she was willing to die if it meant that life got better for all the people she was representing and campaigning for.
Indeed, after her first assassination attempt, nobody would have blamed her if she decided to keep a low profile following her miraculous survival and the Taliban's affirmation that they wouldn't stop until she was dead. Yet, she continued to raise awareness of the conditions she and her peers lived in and campaigned for fair education all over the world. She didn't give in to the pressure to give up—instead, she wrote a best-selling book, inspired millions with speeches all over the world and won a Nobel Peace Prize.
Since her experiences with the Taliban, she has settled and thrived in the UK. She attained well-deserved A*-A grades at GCSE and A-Level and, currently, is reading PPE at Oxford University—the same university as her role model, Benazir Bhutto. In a conversation with The Guardian, she said that "My dream is to empower myself with education, and then it is a weapon."
They say that knowledge is power, and it is clear that Malala is using her education and intelligence to further the fight for what is.
However, Malala's story is an anomaly, and that is something she is acutely aware of and trying to raise awareness of in her activism. Malala represents opportunity, and what would be possible if every single woman with potential was given the chance the thrive.
There are hundreds and thousands Malalas in the world who are prevented from living the life they deserve and live in horrific conditions every single day. Malala Day, in my eyes, is dedicated not only to the astonishing achievements of Malala herself, but also to them: it signifies hope that one day things will change for the better, and women all over the world are able to thrive and live freely without fear.