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Malala - The Name is Enough

“I only talk about peace” were the words of Malala Yousafzai at the Oscars ceremony. The answer was given in response to a question posed by a night show host Jimmy Kimmel. He asked, “I was wondering, do you think Harry Styles spit on Chris Pine.” Malala gave a witty answer and left everyone in giggles. However, some criticized Kimmel for being insensitive and corny for calling her “Mala la land”. Anyways, the ceremony was as bright as the dress worn by Malala. She wore a shimmering Ralph Lauren dress along with some symbolic jewelry. Her film “Stranger At The Gate” was nominated for the academy awards 2023. As the executive producer of the documentary, she aims at advocating education and human rights. Before that, she was the executive producer of “Joy land”, a Pakistani film directed by Saim Sadiq. The film like many others highlighted the issues of transgender and societal issues in Pakistan. The film was shortlisted for an Oscar nomination. Likewise, her cause is to also work on representing South Asian actors in Hollywood. Malala also met some notable stars including Rihanna, Harrison Ford, and Salma Hayek. Malala and her husband, Asser Malik, were spotted together taking comical jibes at each other.

But who is Malala? How did she come here? Was Malala shot in her childhood? Why did she receive the Nobel Prize? For all of this, we have to trace back to her life in Pakistan. Born on 12th July 1997, Swat, the land of beauty bathed in the blood of its citizens. She is the daughter of Tor Pekai Yousafzai and Ziauddin Yousafzai. Her father, Ziauddin, owned a school so Malala’s interest in knowledge was innate. She used to pose as a teacher from a very young age. However, this passion earned the ire of a certain section of Pakistan. Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was taking hold of North Waziristan and began to expand its hegemon. The core ideology of TTP workers is to impose “self-understood sharia rules''. For that, their first and only step is to ban girls’ education and enforce “hijab”. Malala, an indigenous Pashtun, felt the threat and was worried among many. In 2008, the Taliban demolished nearly 400 schools and inflicted a complete ban on girls’ education. But Malala was resistant to TTP terror tactics and defied them all.

In 2009, she began to write a blog under the pen name of “Gul Makai”. On the BBC website, she wrote under the headline “I am afraid” and described the repercussions of Taliban rule. She expressed her trepidation about bomb attacks on her beloved city. Malala began to vehemently advocate for girls’ education. Her efforts were seen and lauded worldwide but she came under the eyes of the Taliban. She received threats and was asked to stop her activism. But she was Malala, like her name-sake poetess of the 19th-century who led the Afghan forces to drive away settler British. But there was also a hidden tragedy in her name and legacy.. The meaning of Malala is grief-stricken. On October 9th, 2012 Malala was coming home from school when some gunmen stopped the bus. They entered the bus and asked, “Who is Malala?” As soon as she raised her hand, she was shot down three times. Two other girls, Kainat and Shazia were also wounded.

Condemnations for this heinous attack came from across the world. US President Barack Obama, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and UN chief Ban Ki-moon expressed their disgust over this attack. Malala was taken into intensive care and her treatment began. The then-military spokesperson, Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa said that Malala needs post-surgery care. For that, AFIC (Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology) had better equipment. She was airlifted from Peshawar to Rawalpindi. The medical reports of Malala were also sent to London and Dubai to seek better professional treatment. She was sent to Birmingham, UK for further treatment. She came out of a medically induced coma but still required many surgeries.


In 2013, she finally began to go to school in Birmingham. She gave her first speech at the UN on her 16th birthday. She wrote her first ever book, an autobiography, named “I am Malala''. Her birthday, 12th July, was regarded as “Malala day” in memory of her resistance. In 2014, she founded Malala Fund and carried out activism for girls’ education in Syria, Kenya, and Nigeria. The same year she became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize Winner at the age of seventeen. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called her “the pride of Pakistan''. In 2018, she began to study philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the University of Oxford. She also visited her hometown in Pakistan in 2018 where she was warmly welcomed. In 2020, she graduated from Oxford University. Throughout these years she was a strong proponent of girls’ education and strictly against wars.

Malala received numerous accolades from across the world and it would take another article to record them. Some of them are mentioned here to document her achievements. She received the Children's Peace Prize in 2011. That same year, she was awarded Pakistan's National Youth Peace Prize. In 2012, she was awarded with Pakistan’s second-highest civilian bravery award, Sitara-e-Shujaat. On October 10, 2013, the European Parliament awarded Malala the prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. In 2017, she was also conferred with honorary Canadian citizenship.

However, with worldwide fame and numerous accolades to her name, she is a controversy in her own country. From the time of the bullet attack till now, she is hated by many. The most prominent reason for this prejudice is that she is a famous woman. Pakistan is a gendered-biased country against women and hence she is seen as a western agenda and a tool to tarnish Pakistan’s image. Her book was banned in Pakistan and in 2021, the books featuring Malala’s pictures were also confiscated. In an interview with Vogue, her views on marriage were taken out of context and heavily criticized.      

Nevertheless, she remains an icon for many in Pakistan. In 2020, she visited Pakistan to meet the flood victims and urge international platforms for flood relief. The same year, she addressed the opening ceremony of the commonwealth games in Birmingham. She also criticized the Israeli settlement in Palestine. Malala also condemned the Taliban’s order to shut down women’s education in Afghanistan.

While there are certain elements in Pakistan who are against her, Malala’s love for Pakistan is boundless. The same affectionate feelings are shared by many Pakistanis. So here is to Malala, the symbol of resistance, an inspiration for many.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Edited By: Ritaja Kar

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