Malala Yousafzai (born July 12, 1997, Mingora, Swat Valley, Pakistan), Pakistani activist who, while a teenager, spoke out publicly against the Taliban’s prohibition on the education of girls. She gained global attention when she survived an assassination attempt at age 15. In 2014 Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace recognizing their efforts on behalf of children’s rights.
The daughter of an outspoken social activist and educator, Yousafzai was an excellent student. Her father—who established and administered the school she attended, Khushal Girls High School and College in the city of Mingora—encouraged her to follow in his path. In 2007 the Swat Valley, once a vacation destination, was invaded by the Taliban. Led by Maulana Fazlullah, the Pakistani Taliban began imposing strict Islamic law, destroying or shutting down girls’ schools, banning women from any active role in society, and carrying out suicide bombings. Yousafzai and her family fled the region for their safety, but they returned when tensions and violence eased.
On September 1, 2008, when Yousafzai was 11 years old, her father took her to a local press club in Peshawar to protest the school closings, and she gave her first speech—“How Dare the Taliban Take Away My Basic Right to Education?” Her speech was publicized throughout Pakistan. Toward the end of 2008, the Taliban announced that all girls’ schools in Swat would be shut down on January 15, 2009. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) approached Yousafzai’s father in search of someone who might blog for them about what it was like to live under Taliban rule. Under the name Gul Makai, Yousafzai began writing regular entries for BBC Urdu about her daily life. She wrote from January through the beginning of March of that year 35 entries that were also translated into English. Meanwhile, the Taliban shut down all girls’ schools in Swat and blew up more than 100 of them.