Photo: DFID – UK Department for International Development / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)
Born: July 12, 1997
Age: 22 years
Born Place: Mingora
Education: Edgbaston High School
Occupation: Activist for female education, former blogger for BBC Urdu
Known for: I am Malala
Malala’s Magic Pencil
Right to education
Malala Yousafzai (Urdu: ملالہ یوسفزئی; Pashto: ملاله یوسفزۍ born 12 July 1997) is a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate. She is known for human rights advocacy, especially the education of women and children in her native Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, northwest Pakistan, where the local Pakistani Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. Her advocacy has grown into an international movement, and according to former Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, she has become “the most prominent citizen” of the country.
Yousafzai was born to a Pashtun family in Mingora, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. Her family came to run a chain of schools in the region. Considering Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Benazir Bhutto as her role models, she was particularly inspired by her father’s thoughts and humanitarian work. In early 2009, when she was 11–12, she wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC Urdu detailing her life during the Pakistani Taliban occupation of Swat. The following summer, journalist Adam B. Ellick made a New York Times documentary about her life as the Pakistani military intervened in the region. She rose in prominence, giving interviews in print and on television, and she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by activist Desmond Tutu.
On 9 October 2012, while on a bus in the Swat District, after taking an exam, Yousafzai and two other girls were shot by a Pakistani Taliban gunman in an assassination attempt in retaliation for her activism; the gunman fled the scene. Yousafzai was hit in the head with a bullet and remained unconscious and in critical condition at the Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology, but her condition later improved enough for her to be transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, UK. The attempt on her life sparked an international outpouring of support for Yousafzai. Deutsche Welle reported in January 2013 that Yousafzai may have become “the most famous teenager in the world”. Weeks after the attempted murder, a group of fifty leading Muslim clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwā against those who tried to kill her. The Pakistani Taliban were internationally denounced by governments, human rights organizations and feminist groups. Pakistani Taliban officials responded to condemnation by further denouncing Yousafzai, indicating plans for a possible second assassination attempt, which was justified as a religious obligation. Their statements resulted in further international condemnation.
Following her recovery, Yousafzai became a prominent activist for the right to education. Based in Birmingham, she co-founded the Malala Fund, a non-profit organisation with Shiza Shahid, and in 2013 co-authored I Am Malala, an international best seller. In 2012, she was the recipient of Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and the 2013 Sakharov Prize. In 2014, she was the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Kailash Satyarthi of India. Aged 17 at the time, she was the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. In 2015, Yousafzai was a subject of the Oscar-shortlisted documentary He Named Me Malala. The 2013, 2014 and 2015 issues of Time magazine featured her as one of the most influential people globally. In 2017, she was awarded honorary Canadian citizenship and became the youngest person to address the House of Commons of Canada. Yousafzai attended Edgbaston High School in England from 2013 to 2017, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) from the University of Oxford where she was an undergraduate student of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford in 2020.
Yousafzai was born on 12 July 1997 in the Swat District of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, into a lower-middle-class family. She is the daughter of Ziauddin Yousafzai and Tor Pekai Yousafzai. Her family is Sunni Muslim of Pashtun ethnicity, belonging to the Yusufzai tribe. The family did not have enough money for a hospital birth and as a result, Yousafzai was born at home with the help of neighbours. She was given her first name Malala (meaning “grief-stricken”) after Malalai of Maiwand, a famous Pashtun poet and warrior woman from southern Afghanistan. At her house in Mingora, she lived with her two younger brothers, Khushal and Atal, her parents, Ziauddin and Tor Pekai, and two pet chicken.
Fluent in Pashto, Urdu and English, Yousafzai was educated mostly by her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who is a poet, school owner, and an educational activist himself, running a chain of private schools known as the Khushal Public School. In an interview, Yousafzai once stated that she aspired to become a doctor, though later her father encouraged her to become a politician instead. Ziauddin referred to his daughter as something entirely special, allowing her to stay up at night and talk about politics after her two brothers had been sent to bed.
Inspired by Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Yousafzai started speaking about education rights as early as September 2008, when her father took her to Peshawar to speak at the local press club. “How dare the (Pakistani) Taliban take away my basic right to education?” Yousafzai asked her audience in a speech covered by newspapers and television channels throughout the region. In 2009, Yousafzai began as a trainee and then a peer educator in the Institute for War and Peace Reporting’s Open Minds Pakistan youth programme, which worked in schools in the region to help young people engage in constructive discussion on social issues through the tools of journalism, public debate and dialogue.
From March 2013 to July 2017, Yousafzai was a pupil at the all-girls Edgbaston High School in Birmingham. In August 2015, she received 6 A*s and 4 As at GCSE level. At A Level, she studied Geography, History, Mathematics and Religious Studies. Also applying to Durham University, the University of Warwick and the London School of Economics (LSE), Yousafzai was interviewed at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford in December 2016 and received a conditional offer of three As in her A Levels; in August 2017, she was accepted to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). On 19 June 2020, it was announced that she had completed her finals exams at university.
AWARDS AND HONOURS
Yousafzai has received the following national and international honours, listed by the date they were awarded:
- 2011: International Children’s Peace Prize (nominee)
- 2011: National Youth Peace Prize
- January 2012: Anne Frank Award for Moral Courage
- October 2012: Sitara-e-Shujaat, Pakistan’s third-highest civilian bravery award
- November 2012: Foreign Policy magazine top 100 global thinker
- December 2012: Time magazine Person of the Year shortlist for 2012
- November 2012: Mother Teresa Awards for Social Justice
- December 2012: Rome Prize for Peace and Humanitarian Action
- January 2013: Top Name in Annual Survey of Global English in 2012
- January 2013: Simone de Beauvoir Prize
- March 2013: Memminger Freiheitspreis 1525 (conferred on 7 December 2013 in Oxford)
- March 2013: Doughty Street Advocacy award of Index on Censorship
- March 2013: Fred and Anne Jarvis Award of the UK National Union of Teachers
- April 2013: Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards, Global Trailblazer
- April 2013: One of Time‘s “100 Most Influential People in the World”
- May 2013: Premi Internacional Catalunya Award of Catalonia, May 2013
- June 2013: Annual Award for Development of the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID)
- June 2013: International Campaigner of the Year, 2013 Observer Ethical Awards
- August 2013: Tipperary International Peace Award for 2012, Ireland Tipperary Peace Convention
- 2013: Portrait of Yousafzai by Jonathan Yeo displayed at National Portrait Gallery, London
- September 2013: Ambassador of Conscience Award from Amnesty International
- 2013: International Children’s Peace Prize
- 2013: Clinton Global Citizen Awards from Clinton Foundation
- September 2013: Harvard Foundation’s Peter Gomes Humanitarian Award from Harvard University
- 2013: Anna Politkovskaya Award – Reach All Women in War
- 2013: Reflections of Hope Award – Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum
- 2013: Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought – awarded by the European Parliament
- 2013: Honorary Master of Arts degree awarded by the University of Edinburgh
- 2013: Pride of Britain (October)
- 2013: Glamour magazine Woman of the Year
- 2013: GG2 Hammer Award at GG2 Leadership Awards (November
- 2013: International Prize for Equality and Non-Discrimination
- 2014: Nominee for World Children’s Prize also known as Children’s Nobel Prize
- 2014: Awarded Honorary Life Membership by the PSEU (Ireland)
- 2014: Skoll Global Treasure Award
- 2014: Honorary Doctor of Civil Law, University of King’s College, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
- 2014: 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, shared with Kailash Satyarthi
- 2014: Philadelphia Liberty Medal
- 2014: One of Time Magazine “The 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014”
- 2014: Honorary Canadian citizenship
- 2015: Asteroid 316201 Malala named in her honour.
- 2015: The audio version of her book I am Malala wins Grammy Award for Best Children’s Album.
- 2016: Honorary President of The Students’ Union of the University of Sheffield
- 2016: Order of the Smile
- 2017: Youngest ever United Nations Messenger of Peace
- 2017: Received honorary doctorate from the University of Ottawa
- 2017: Ellis Island International Medal of Honor
- 2017: Wonk of the Year 2017 from American University
- 2017: Harper’s Bazaar inducted Malala in the list of “150 of the most influential female leaders in the UK”.
- 2018: Advisor to Princess Zebunisa of Swat, Swat Relief Initiative Foundation, Princeton, New Jersey
- 2018: Gleitsman Award from the Center for the Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School
- 2019: For their first match of March 2019, the women of the United States women’s national soccer team each wore a jersey with the name of a woman they were honoring on the back; Carli Lloyd chose the name of Yousafzai.