In the light of recent government-related events that have left so many women feeling betrayed and voiceless, being able to recognize this year's International Day of the Girl on October 11 feels like a beam of hope. One appropriate way to honor the occasion is to read the wise words of Malala Yousafzai, whose work has done so much to help girls all over the world.
As a young teen in her native Pakistan, Malala protested the Taliban's ban on education for girls and women, knowing it was a risky fight. In 2012, a masked gunman shot Malala in the head as she was riding a bus; she was flown to England for treatment and made a miraculous recovery. Refusing to give in to fear and intimidation, Malala continued her quest for equal education worldwide, according to Biography. Her 2013 book I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Was Shot By the Taliban became a bestseller, and the following year, Malala was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Today, Malala is a 21-year-old student at Oxford, but her work continues. She and her father founded the Malala Fund, which works to raise awareness and establish schools in areas of the world where girls are unlikely to go beyond an elementary education, as Malala's official website explains.
A gifted writer and an inspirational speaker, Malala has offered many words of wisdom to audiences worldwide. Take a moment on this International Day of the Girl to reflect on her remarkable life. You may even be moved to join her cause and help give girls the education they deserve.
1. “My mother had no education and perhaps that was the reason that she always encouraged us to go to school. ‘Don’t wake up like me and realize what you missed years later,’ she says."
This quote from I Am Malala (per Goodreads) helps explain Malala's passion for education. Her father, a teacher himself, also instilled in her a love of learning.
2. "I think everyone makes a mistake at least once in their life. The important thing is what you learn from it."
It's hard to imagine what kind of mistakes Malala could have made in her short life so far, but in her book (quoted in AZQuotes) she has the grace to realize that learning takes many different forms.
3. "People prayed to God to save me, and I was spared for a reason — to use my life for helping people."
Goodreads included this quote from Malala's book in their list, and it's a wonderful testament to the power of prayer and of second chances.
4. "The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”
Not every young woman would respond to a horrific trauma by redoubling her efforts to create change in the world. Malala's words, per Goodreads, reflect her determination to defy her attacker and anyone who opposes equal rights.
5. "Today on my first day as an adult, on behalf of the world's children, I demand of leaders we must invest in books instead of bullets."
As Biography explained, Malala spent her 18th birthday in July 2015 at the opening of a school the Malala Fund helped make possible. The Lebanese school serves 200 high-school-age girls, all Syrian refugees. She made this statement while addressing an audience in one of the school's classrooms.
6. "I am not a lone voice. I am many. I am Malala. But I am also Shazia. I am Kainat. I am Kainat Soomro. I am Mezon. I am Amina. I am those 66 million girls who are deprived of education. And today I am not raising my voice, it is the voice of those 66 million girls."
7. Malala's stirring Nobel Peace Prize speech described the plight of the millions of girls in countries that ban or discourage women's education. One of them was a good friend of Malala's who once dreamed of being a doctor, but was forced to marry at age 12 and become a mother at 14. In her friend's honor, Malala donated her Nobel money toward building a school in Pakistan.
7. "Why is it that countries which we call 'strong' are so powerful in creating wars, but so weak in creating peace? Why is it that giving guns is so easy, but giving books is so hard?"
Her Nobel speech went on to implore world leaders to devote more money and efforts to establishing schools and guaranteeing an education to boys and girls alike.
8. "Let us make our future now, and let us make our dreams tomorrow's reality."
Less than a year after being attacked, Malala addressed an audience at Harvard in September 2013, per the Boston Globe. There, she was awarded the Harvard Foundation's humanitarian award.
9. "When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful."
During the same address, Malala articulated the sentiment that resonates even more strongly today. At the award ceremony, the executive director of Brigham and Women's Hospital's Connors Center for Women's Health and Gender Biology declared, "Let us reflect on the power of one woman's voice to move many."
10. "Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world."
Finally, it was during the same speech that Malala repeated one of her most famous, and most beautiful, quotes that she used when addressing the United Nations.
11. "Women are strong. Women can do anything... Do not wait for *me* to change your rights. It's your world, and you can change it."
Malala gave an interview to Glamour in 2013 in which she pointed out that of the two genders, it's women who were given the power to create life.