On Oct. 9, 2012, Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old Pakistani girl, was airlifted from her school bus with blood running through her hair and a bullet lodged in her head. Her destination was a hospital in the United Kingdom.
This was her punishment for her efforts to provide young women with the opportunity to go to school. Her activism and consciousness were abruptly halted one morning when she left for school and was shot through her eye by the Pakistani Taliban.
Despite this overwhelmingly traumatic experience, her setback was only temporary.
Malala’s life work was now clear. She wanted to give young women a chance at realizing their right to an education and make sure what happened to her on that school bus would never befall another person again.
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Malala’s choice to pursue her work echoes the message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as they both understood the injustices that marginalized groups face in a society that mistreats them simply for being born a certain way. Both Nobel Laureates dreamed of a better world that embodies the notion of equality and rights for all, and overcame profound challenges in realizing this dream.
With every waking day, Malala makes the choice to stand for what she believes in, which is to provide education for downtrodden girls in Third World countries. Most would think the bullet fired from the Colt .45 into Malala’s head would be more than enough to silence her, but Malala is not the average teenage girl. She displays precocious perseverance in her fight for education for all.
Dr. King stated in his acclaimed “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, “The ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”
Given that she has now escaped the poverty and oppression of her homeland, Malala understands her new-found privileges and utilizes her upper-hand to give back to those in the position she was once in. She has not forgotten her roots.
At the same time, she has been torn from the land where she grew up, the room where she took her first steps and her first breath, longing to see her friends again. One can only imagine the physical and mental trauma inflicted upon Malala due to her near-death experience, along with her emotional separation from her homeland. However, even with all those factors in mind, she remains focused.
She was not slowed down in a storm of challenge and controversy.
She chooses to speak for those who do not have a voice, even when her voice is being hunted down.
Malala had no obligation to accept responsibility for the undertaking she has. She made the choice to fight for those who couldn’t, just as Dr. King looked out into the world, recognized the injustices and worked to abolish them despite his severe challenges. She selflessly volunteers to continue her advocacy after nearly being assassinated.
Malala had every single reason to refrain from this movement, but still persists, understanding the importance of it. Her courageous activism is completely voluntary. She keeps.
King’s dream alive through the Malala Fund that builds schools in countries where girls often do not have the opportunity to receive secondary education, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and countries housing Syrian refugees.
Malala chooses to advocate for women and girls, fighting an ongoing battle by refraining from violence and using merely her voice. She reflects Dr.. King’s message that people, “must not allow... creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.”
Her voice is her weapon as she speaks up for girls in Pakistan, those whose rights have never been fully recognized. She has made it clear that she will never turn to violence in pursuing her cause by stating in her 2013 speech to the United Nations, “I don’t want revenge on the Taliban, I want education for sons and daughters of the Taliban…
“Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons.”
Despite being a victim of a horrible attack, Malala chooses not to act in a way that reflects the Taliban, but reflects what she stands for: Peace. She takes the ultimate step of bravery by using the constant hatred that she faces as motivation to pursue Dr. King’s dream of peace.
Thalia Colarian is a 10th grader at Buchanan High School in the Clovis Unified School District. She is the high school winner.