Malala Yousafzai is one of the most remarkable people on the planet today. The Pakistani teenager was shot in the head by the Taliban last October because she dared to speak out in favour of educating girls. Yesterday, she spoke on video for the first time since undergoing a series of successful operations to rebuild her skull and restore her hearing. And the very first thing she said was that she wants to continue her fight to educate “every girl, every child.” Her courage is beyond inspiring.
Malala caught the Taliban’s attention in 2009 when she began writing a blog for the BBC about life in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, a region where Pakistani forces and the Taliban have repeatedly clashed, and where the Taliban has closed down and destroyed schools that educate girls. That led to a New York Times documentary about Malala, and she became a sought-after international spokesperson for her people’s struggles against the Taliban’s sadistic, medieval rule. The Taliban reacted the way it always does when faced with the forces of reason and progress: It put a hit out on Malala. Two Taliban gunmen walked onto her school bus on Oct. 9, 2012, asked for her by name and fired bullets in her head and neck.
But they weren’t able to kill her. Instead, they turned her into an even bigger international heroine. After months of surgeries, 15-year-old Malala walked through the halls of a British hospital on Monday under her own power and gave a videotaped interview. The left side of her face slightly slack as a result of her wounds, the young woman spoke with a wisdom that belies her age. She said she has been given a “second life,” a gift that has made her want to “serve the people.”
“I want every girl, every child to be educated,” she said in direct defiance of the ultra-violent terrorists that have vowed to try to kill her again. She also announced the creation of the Malala Fund, a charity that will support the education of girls everywhere.
Young Malala’s story is remarkable in so many ways. She has rallied the world in the fight to educate young girls, and children in general. But her greatest gift has been to demonstrate to Pakistanis, and to people watching around the world, that it is possible to stand up to the Taliban. Her courage is infectious. May a thousand Malalas bloom.