When I think of the term girl crush, it needs to encompass much more than the shallow judging of a woman’s exterior. It needs to be a woman or young girl who shatters statistics, and helps break down barriers for other women and individuals around the world. It needs to be a strong female who displays admirable traits of drive and ambition, and isn’t scared of disagreeing with social norms or speaking what’s on her mind. Someone who values the importance of education, and strives to educate and empower others.
Each week, I will be dedicating a post specifically to my personal girl crushes. I will explain a bit about their story, and the work and/or awards they have been honoured with, in hopes of inspiring and motivating others. I have learned a lot from these women, and when I am struggling with something in my personal life, I think about their stories and use them as a sense of strength to get me through whatever it is I am faced with.
Malala Yousafzai is most certainly a heroine in every sense of the world. She is admired around the world for her courage, outstanding achievements, and noble qualities. Malala courageously stood up and spoke out against the Taliban, when they tried to deny the females in her town the right to attend school (even though she knew this would put her and her family at high risk). She has made significant strides in advancing the conversation and notion of educational equality around the world, and continues to fight for all children to have the right to attend school. On top of this, at age 16 Malala also co-founded the Malala Fund, an organization focused on securing and ensuring 12 years of free, safe, education for young girls through funding leaders and projects on the ground in developing countries.
In the documentary He Named Me Malala, Malala recalls her childhood growing up in Pakistan as a very happy and beautiful time living in Swat Valley. But issues began to arise and intensify in her region, when the Taliban a powerful terrorist organization in Pakistan, began travelling from city to city burning and destroying all books, computers, and other educational related supplies. The Taliban began a campaign, which advocated the notion that the education of girls is against Islam and therefore, girls shouldn’t go to school. The Taliban viewed education as a threat to their organization because education helps give children (girls in particular) the power to question and challenge things. The Taliban began imposing strict Islamic law, and started gaining more and more power. With this came the frequent destruction and bombing of schools in Malala’s town. Worse than the bombings and destruction, was the Taliban’s demand that no girl attend school, and their related threat of what they implied they would do if they were to find out girls were attending school.
In 2008, at the young age of 11, Malala used her voice to speak out. Malala’s father Ziauddin, an active advocate for education himself, took Malala to a press club so she could openly protest against the issues taking place in her region. At the press club, Malala gave her first speech titled “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?”. Early into the following year, Malala began blogging for the BBC Urdu under the pseudonym ‘Gul Makai’. In the blog, Malala chronicled her struggles as well as the devastating details of rights abuses in her day-to-day life under Taliban rule.
Malala continued to secretly attend school after the Taliban had threatened everyone against it. During this time, Taliban tensions continued to rise due to the increasing awareness and criticism surrounding their actions, and by Malala and her father’s continuous speaking out on camera and news stations, demonstrating their refusal to be silenced by the Taliban. Malala began receiving death threats from the Taliban, but her and her parents never thought the Taliban would go as far as attempting to kill a child. Unfortunately, they were wrong.
Travelling home from school on October 9th, 2012, a Taliban gunman came onto her school bus and shot Malala in the forehead. The bullet entered the left side of her forehead, travelling under her skin along the entire left side of her head, and into her shoulder. Two of her friends sitting close to her also suffered gun shot wounds. No one at the hospital thought Malala would survive. Her brain was damaged, her skull was shattered, and the bullet ended up destroying her left eardrum and the small bones in her left ear, unfortunately leaving her deaf in that ear.
WHAT SHE HAS ACHIEVED:
Since recovering from the nearly fatal incident that occurred in 2012, Malala has gone on to achieve INCREDIBLE milestones. Even before the incident, Malala was making significant humanitarian strides from the age of 11. From 2011 until now, Malala has received some of the most prestigious national and international awards and honours. These include the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize (the youngest EVER to receive this might I add), International Children’s Peace Prize, The Peter Gomes Humanitarian Award from Harvard University, Anne Frank Award for Moral Courage, and the list goes on and on and on. Malala even won a Grammy last year for ‘Best Children’s Album’ for her audiobook I Am Malala, narrated by Neela Vaswani.
WHAT MALALA’S STORY HAS TAUGHT ME:
Stand Up. Stand up for yourself, and stand up for what you believe in. Speak out especially when you know others are too scared to. Use your voice on behalf of all of those who are scared. Most importantly, stand up when you know something isn’t right.
Always Question and Challenge Things. Just because someone has more power than you, or they are scary, doesn’t mean that what they are telling you is true, correct, or fair. Malala questioned the Taliban’s restriction of female education, because she felt what they were doing was unfair. Malala has taught me to never be afraid to question or challenge things that I disagree with, and this is an important lesson for all of us to remember.
Forgiveness. In the documentary, Malala was asked if she was mad at the Taliban for what they did to her. Her response? She said never once has there been the tiniest bit of hate, not even an atom of hate in her body towards the Taliban, because her religion (Islam) taught her humanity, equality, and forgiveness. Malala is true inspiration to all, I admire her outlook on life. She is a symbol of bravery, and despite her horrible tragedies, she still continues to practice and teach forgiveness.
Don’t Sink to Their Level. During an interview with John Stuart, Malala discusses how she used to think about what she would do if the Taliban came into her house:
If he comes, what would you do Malala? I would reply myself: “Malala just take a shoe and hit him”. But then I said “if you hit a Talib with your shoe, there will be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others that much with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others through peace and through dialogue and education”. Then I said, “I’ll tell him how important education is, and that I even want education for your children as well”.
Jon Stuart, like myself, were both left to pick up our jaws in amazement. These are such powerful words for a 16 year old to speak, and this further demonstrates how astonishing Malala really is as a human being.
WHERE TO CHECK HER OUT:
You can join Malala on her journey to making education a fundamental right for all, by following her on Twitter at @MalalaFund (she does not use a personal Twitter account as of right now). To stay informed, learn more about her projects, or donate to her efforts, you can check out www.malalafund.com. Her book is titled I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban and I highly reccomend watching her documentary as well, called He Named Me Malala.
FAVOURITE MALALA QUOTES:
“It is so hard to get things done in this world. You try, and too often it doesn’t work. But you have to continue and never give up.”
“There’s a moment where you have to choose whether to be silent, or stand up.”
“We realize the importance of light when we see darkness. We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced.”
“Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullet would silence us, but nothing changed except this; weakness, fear, and hopelessness died. Strength, power, and courage was born.”
“Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons.”
Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any upcoming blog posts or girl crush features! Please feel free to comment if you would like to see someone included in the coming weeks, of if YOU have an interesting story about yourself or someone you know that you would like to have featured on the site! Below I have also included a wonderful video, of Malala’s father discussing the importance of gender equality and his role in raising such a strong young girl. It is definitely worth a watch so please check it out!