An education activist and advocate, Malala Yousafzai came into prominence for her non-violent protest against the Pakistani Taliban’s attack on girls’ education.

Malala began her activism journey in 2008, when she delivered a highly publicised speech titled: “How Dare the Taliban Take Away My Basic Right to Education?” at a local press club. In 2009 she continued her outspoken activism by blogging about her daily life as a young girl in Taliban-controlled Pakistan, an activity she commenced after being connected by her father to a BBC Urdu journalist seeking to report on the Taliban and its war on girls’ education. Her online traction continued to surge, as Malala conducted a series of interviews with international news organisations discussing her advocacy for girls’ education, starred in two documentary short films by the New York Times, and was nominated for Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize in late 2011.  

Her rise to prominence sparked the ire of the Pakistani Taliban, and in October 2012, Malala was targeted by a masked gunman who boarded her school bus, shooting her along with two other classmates. After the attack left her in critical condition, Malala recovered in Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, narrowly avoiding death. Immediately after the attack and throughout her recovery process Malala was lauded by world leaders and education activists alike for her brave act of defiance in the face of terrorism. To this day terrorism persists in Pakistan, and the country continues to be impacted to a high degree, placing 4th on the Global Terrorism Index 2024, produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace. Recording 15,391 deaths from terrorism since 2007, the country has been rocked by conflict caused by several terrorist groups such as the Balochistan Liberation Army, as well as the same group that targeted Malala: Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).  

Malala’s act of defiance reinforced education’s critical role in combatting violence. Education helps comprise one of the eight pillars of Positive Peace, the building and protection of High Levels of Human Capital, which is paramount to achieving social resilience, as evidenced by IEP research: “better performance in education can reduce the severity and duration of societal violence and save lives.” Prioritising education rates in developing countries remains crucial, and girls’ access remains restricted, with 129 million girls out of school globally 

“I am someone who wants to see every child getting quality education, who wants to see women having equal rights and who wants peace in every corner of the world.” — Malala Yousafzai

For her bravery in the face of an act of terror, Malala received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. In her Nobel Lecture, Malala demonstrated the importance of strengthening the relationship between education and peace by declaring herself as someone “who wants to see every child getting quality education, who wants to see women having equal rights and who wants peace in every corner of the world.” Her speech shows the need to improve education levels to see peace levels rise. Unfortunately, access to education continues to be an ongoing issue for women, and according to the UN, 40 per cent of countries have not achieved gender parity in primary education. This is an issue Malala contends with through her work with the Malala Fund, a non-for-profit she co-founded with her father Ziauddin Yousafzai with the aim of expanding girls’ education opportunities. Founded in 2013, the organisation operates in nine countries, investing $47 million in programs targeting at-risk youth lacking access to education. Malala’s own education continued in England, where she attended the University of Oxford and completed a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE).    

Malala’s unwavering determination serves as a salient reminder that the universal right to an education should be protected. By refusing to bow to the Taliban’s ban on girls’ attendance in schools, Malala asserted her right and the right of all women to receive an education. Her quiet activism withstands as a model example of peaceful activism in the face of violence and terrorism. 



Joshua Woo

Communications Associate

Vision of Humanity

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