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Malala Yousafzai is a children’s and women’s rights activist advocating for girls education worldwide. She co-founded the Malala Fund with her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, to establish and support education programs for girls around the globe.
Malala was born on July 12, 1997, in Mingora, a town in the Swat District of northwest Pakistan. At a young age, she was already advocating for education in her conflict-stricken town. Malala published a blog for BBC Urdu under the pseudonym “Gul Makai.” She wrote about the increasing military activity in the Swat District and her fears that the Taliban would attack her school. Archbishop Desmond Tutu nominated Malala for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011. In the same year, Malala received the first National Youth Peace Prize in Pakistan.
Malala’s activism and her increasing influence led the Islamic fundamentalist group Taliban to issue a death threat against the young girl. Malala was only 14 then. On October 9, 2012, a masked gunman shot Malala in the head leaving her in critical condition. She was flown to Birmingham, in the United Kingdom to receive extensive medical rehabilitation.
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The Taliban attack was condemned worldwide and sparked protests across Pakistan. Shortly after the attack, 2 million people signed a right to education petition and the National Assembly promptly ratified the country’s first Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill.
The Malala Fund was established to bring awareness to the social and economic impacts of education girls. It also aims to empower girls to raise their voices and to demand change. Some of the programs of the Malala Fund include partnerships with local education organizations to educate girls in Pakistan and community-based alternative learning programs. The advocacy also invests in schools for Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan and supports IT and life skills training in the Nairobi slums in Kenya. Ultimately, the fund aims to enable girls worldwide to complete 12 years of safe, quality education.
In 2014, Malala received the Nobel Peace Prize Award. She is the youngest person to receive the prestigious award, and she contributed her $1.1 million prize money to build a secondary school for girls in Pakistan.