Malala Yousafzai: On International Women’s Day, Honoring A Fearless Leader at Just 15 Years Old
Malala Yousafzai is living proof that leadership comes in all shapes and sizes, genders, ethnicities, nationalities, and ages. We usually think of history being made by people with some years on them, but this courageous young woman demonstrates that anyone of any age can be a history maker.
In 2009, Yousafzai began sharing her stories under a pseudonym for the BBC. Yousafzai documented the drop in attendance of girls at her school after an increased concern over safety. Just after her blog ended, the Taliban temporarily banned women from going to jobs and to the market. In Pakistan she and her father received death threats in person, in newspapers, and online.
Despite the dangers associated with reaching out to press, Yousafzai continued to talk to media to advocate equal education. She could be the poster child for No Excuses Power Tool #8: employ every medium.
In 2012, the young activist was shot by members of the Taliban in the Swat district of Pakistan, while returning home from school. Yousafzai was targeted after being recognized in Pakistan for advocating education for all girls. Even though Yousafzai was shot at point blank range, she lived to tell the tale.
During her first address to the public after the shooting, she restated her cause:
“I want every girl, every child, to be educated.”
Yousafzai has made history since then by becoming the youngest Nobel Peace Prize nominee ever. Her identity was revealed when her father formally nominated her for a peace prize.
In honor of her efforts for girls’ education, Gordon Brown launched a petition that aims to have all girls in schools by 2015. The goals of the petition are: to outlaw discrimination against girls in every country, to plan to deliver education for every child in Pakistan, and to ensure the world’s 61 million out-of-school children are in education by the end of 2015.
Yousafzai is an inspiration to all who seek integrity in our work. Even in the midst of death threats, even after seeing schools destroyed, even after being shot—she has remained true to her message. And she has shined a light that illuminates a burgeoning movement as women rise, determined to take their rightful place in the world.
On March 8, International Women’s Day, I would like to say we honor her, but in truth, with her courage and willingness to act even in the face of such horrific violence, Malala Yousafzai honors the strength and resilience of all women around the globe today.
About the Author
Gloria Feldt, Co-Founder and President of Take The Lead, is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. She teaches "Women, Power, and Leadership" at Arizona State University and was named to Vanity Fair's Top 200 women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers.