Who is Malala?

In a society that knows more about celebrities than people who are truly impacting the world, it is not rare to encounter citizens that do not know who Malala Yousafza is.

I asked Allison Mangan, a junior accounting major, if she knew about Yousafza.

“I have no idea who you’re talking about,” Mangan said.

Astonished of her response, I asked the same question to Brenda Carhuayo, a freshman biology major.

“She got shot for what she believed in,” Carhuayo said.

Malala Yousafza is a 17-year-old girl who was born in Pakistan and was recently honored as the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize since it was created in 1901.

The Nobel Peace Prize website states that she was recognized “for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”

This young adolescent has started a revolution. The movement is so big that it has even caught the attention of the President of the United States, Barack Obama, and the queen of England, who Malala has visited. She has also addressed the United Nations with an unforgettable speech. She has astonished some of the world’s greatest leaders because of the complexity of her words and message at such a young age.

“The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died,” Yousafza said in a speech. “Strength, power and courage was born.”

She was referring to the incident where she faced death two years ago. A member of the Taliban searching for her on a crowded bus in northwestern Pakistan shouted, “Who is Malala?” Then, he proceeded to fire a bullet into Malala’s forehead with the goal of silencing her cry for education and equal rights for girls.

It may be hard to imagine a young girl who has to stand up for her rights and beliefs in another part of the world. But, these are the type of stories that need to be published on the front page of every magazine and newspaper instead of the latest celebrity scandal. All of the setbacks she has overcome, instead of silencing her, have made her stronger and more fearless. Those are two qualities every girl should look up to. No matter your religion, your ethnicity or age, Yousafza is a role model.

While reading about Malala’s campaign, I started questioning whether or not we, as college students, value the education we have been offered. Sometimes it seems like we take for granted the opportunities and resources we have. We should give our education the value it deserves. Yousafza certainly thinks of education as a cause worth living for, and maybe even worth dying for.

“We do take that [our education] for granted, some people can’t [be educated] for different reasons like money or religion,” Carhuayo said.

On the topic of education, Malala has said some thought-provoking things.

“Dear sisters and brothers, we realize the importance of light when we see darkness. We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced. In the same way, when we were in Swat, the north of Pakistan, we realized the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns,” Malala said in a speech at the United Nations on her 16th birthday.

Intrigued by the thought of knowing if women knew about who Malala is, I kept looking for more answers to the question: “Who is Malala?”

Menna Elkady, a senior chemical engineering major, said, “I think her whole campaign is something that society needs to get girls out of the role of just being wives or housewives.”

Elorna Pierre, a freshman biology major, also had a similar response.

“Malala is great. Especially from where she is, it is good for girls to have someone to look up to. I would look up to her as a role model,” Pierre said.

Malala has even written a book about her story.

“The book is part history, part politics, part tragedy, but mostly good overcoming evil,” critic Ken Kish of The Macomb Daily said.

“With her courage and determination, Malala has shown what terrorists fear most: a girl with a book,” United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-Moon told The New York Times.

Clearly, Malala has done much more than speak her mind. She has spurred a revolution everyone should join.