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International Women's Month Highlight: Malala Yousafzai

A quality 12-year education is something we take for granted in the U.S., but many young girls around the world face barriers to the most basic social ladders. This week we are highlighting a Soldadera who has stood on the front lines of the fight for all women's right to determine their own future.

Malala Yousafzai's parents must have known their daughter would grow up to be a warrior. Born in 1997 in the Swat region of Pakistan, her namesake was the Afghan poet and folk hero Malalai of Maiwand, who rallied Pashtun fighters during the British occupation of Afghanistan in the 19th century.

Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, was an education activist and determined to give her every opportunity a boy could have. But when the Taliban took control of the Swat region in 2008, the extremist group prohibited girls from going to school.

In 2009, when she was only 11 years old, she began speaking out on behalf of girls' right to an education. She wrote a blog under a pseudonym to the BBC Urdu to chronicle her life under Taliban occupation.

Her activism would inevitably make her the target of extremist violence. In 2012, while she was riding the bus home from school, a Taliban gunman boarded the bus and shot her and two other girls.

The bullet struck Malala in the left side of her head and left her in critical condition, and she woke up 10 days later in a hospital in Birmingham, England.

The assassination attempt led to an outpouring of international support, and 50 Muslim leaders in Pakistan issued a joint condemnation of her would-be killers.

After he recovery, she rejoined her family in their new home in the U.K. and became even more vocal about women's right to an education.

With her father's support she established the Malala Fund in 2013 to advocate for every girl's right to a high-quality, 12-year education. In 2014 she became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize at age 17.

Malala completed her Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Economics and Politics at Oxford University in 2020. She returned in 2023 to become the youngest ever honorary fellow at Linacre College, Oxford.

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