Besides the causes for which she advocates (the education of women in her native Pakistan and around the world), Malala Yousafzai’s story is also a shining example of what it means to turn potential tragedy into triumph. Born on July 12, 1997, in the Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, northwest Pakistan, Malala wasn’t initially destined to achieve the fame or recognition that she has achieved. Had her family followed the injunctions of the Taliban in January 2009 to pull all girls out of school, she would have likely had her voice permanently silenced. She certainly never would have become the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate.
In early 2009, at the age of 11, Malala participated in a blog for BBC Urdu that detailed her life under the Taliban. The following year, a journalist made a documentary about her as the Pakistani army invaded Swat Valley. Malala quickly became famous, and was nominated for the International Children’s peace Prize by Desmond Tutu. The Taliban tried to silence her by sending death threats directly and via social media. When that failed, on October 9, 2012, a Taliban gunman shot Malala as she rode a bus home after taking an exam.
After the attack, Malala was treated at a military hospital in Peshawar, where doctors were forced to begin operating after swelling developed in the left portion of her brain. The operation took five hours, but doctors successfully removed the bullet, lodged in her shoulder near her spinal cord. The day following the attack, doctors performed a decompressive craniectomy, in which part of the skull is removed to allow room for the brain to swell.
On October 15, Malala travelled to the United Kingdom for further treatment. In Birmingham, England, Malala came out of her coma and was said to have a good chance of fully recovering without any brain damage. Malala underwent a further five-hour long operation in February of the following year to reconstruct her skull and restore her hearing with a cochlear implant, after which she was reported to be in stable condition.
An international outpouring of support followed this attack, and, since recovering, Malala has spoken even more loudly and vociferously in favour of human rights. She has become an icon, and founded the Malala Fund, a non-profit that champions women’s causes worldwide. In August 2017, she gained admission to Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford to study for a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. She also co-authored I am Malala, an international best-seller and authored a picture book, Malala’s Magic Pencil, which was illustrated by Kerascoët and published in October 2017.
Nezha Boutamine | The Edge Blog