Malala YousafzaiOn October 9 2012, a bearded man climbed aboard a bus full of schoolchildren and shot 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the head. The gunman was a Taliban assailant, sent to assassinate the girl for speaking against the Taliban’s denial of education to women. Now, only a little over a year after waking up from her coma, Malala is far from being silenced—she has become a teenage icon of purpose and bravery, continuing to speak out in support of universal access to education.
As a teenager attending a private school, I often forget how privileged I am to be receiving an education, and I take it for granted. Sometimes I feel as though I go to school only to please my parents or to work towards a far-off goal of getting a well-paying job. I often feel that our education system teaches us how to fit into society rather than how to make a difference, and sometimes I wonder how I can make an impact in a world that is constantly changing.
Upon seeing an interview of Malala, however, a girl who is younger than I am, I came to understand that I am fortunate enough to receive an education—something for which people have to fight and are willing to die. Malala’s fight for universal access to education makes me realize that education should be a fundamental human right, and that we who are privileged enough to have access to education should make the most of it and have the courage to speak up in shaping a better world.
In the news last week, I read that the Taliban chose as head of the Pakistani Taliban, Mullah Fazlullah, the same person who ordered the attack on Malala a year ago. I can’t help but fear for Malala’s safety, but I also know that those forces that seek to suppress universal access to education will have an incredibly powerful adversary in the form of Malala, a teenager like myself, who speaks up for what she knows is right and who quietly refuses to back down.
For inspiring young people like me to be unafraid of speaking up to make changes to the world, Malala is truly a shining example of an international leader. For this reason, I think Malala Yousafzai should be Role Model of the Year.