Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Lecture, 2014

Malala Yousafzai

Women’s Education Activist

In 2012, fifteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai was on a bus in Pakistan, on her way home from school, when two members of the Taliban stopped the vehicle and shot at her three times. One bullet entered and exited her head, paralysing part of her face. She was airlifted to a hospital in Pakistan and then moved to Birmingham, England, where she received intensive treatment and survived. Yousafzai’s story, and her exceptional courage, garnered international attention. Before the attack, she had become a vocal critic of the Taliban’s ban on education for girls. In her hometown of Swat, she mourned the destruction of hundreds of schools. She appeared on local television to criticize the ban and, in 2009, began blogging anonymously about her experiences for the BBC.

In her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, which she shared with the Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi, in 2014, she playfully acknowledged her age (she was the youngest person, and the first Pakistani, to receive the award). She joked about being the first Nobel Peace Prize recipient who still fights with her younger brothers. She pointed out the lack of a secondary school for girls in her hometown and reaffirmed her commitment to build one. Mainly, she used her platform to amplify the voices of others – she said the award belonged not just to her, but to all children who desire an education. ‘Though I appear as one girl, one person, who is 5 foot 2 inches tall, if you include my high heels,’ she said, ‘I am not a lone voice, I am many.’

Nobel Lecture 2014

I have found that people describe me in many different ways.

Some people call me the girl who was shot by the Taliban.

And some, the girl who fought for her rights.

Some people, call me a ‘Nobel Laureate’ now.

However, my brothers still call me that annoying bossy sister. As far as I know, I am just a committed and even stubborn person 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.

Education is one of the blessings of life – and one of its necessities. That has been my experience during the 17 years of my life. In my paradise home, Swat, I always loved learning and discovering new things. I remember when my friends and I would decorate our hands with henna on special occasions. And instead of drawing flowers and patterns we would paint our hands with mathematical formulas and equations….

But things did not remain the same. When I was in Swat, which was a place of tourism and beauty, suddenly changed into a place of terrorism. I was just ten that more than 400 schools were destroyed. Women were flogged. People were killed. And our beautiful dreams turned into nightmares.

Education went from being a right to being a crime.

Girls were stopped from going to school.

When my world suddenly changed, my priorities changed too.

I had two options. One was to remain silent and wait to be killed. And the second was to speak up and then be killed.

I chose the second one. I decided to speak up….

I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not.

It is the story of many girls….

… the so-called world of adults may understand it, but we children don’t.

Why is it that countries which we call ‘strong’ are so powerful in creating wars but are so weak in bringing peace? Why is it that giving guns is so easy but giving books is so hard?…

Let this be the last time that a girl or a boy spends their childhood in a factory.

Let this be the last time that a girl is forced into early child marriage.

Let this be the last time that a child loses life in war.

Let this be the last time that we see a child out of school.

Let this end with us.

I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not.
It is the story of many girls….

Malala Yousafzai