Whenever the new hit song “Royals” comes on the radio, it never fails to prompt one person to ask, “Can you believe she’s only sixteen?” While there’s no doubt that sixteen-year-old Lorde’s talent is nothing short of impressive, there is another sixteen-year-old whose accomplishments at that same young age has everybody talking: Malala Yousafzai. This sixteen-year-old from Pakistan first made headlines at fifteen, when she survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban aboard a school bus.
Yousafzai became a target of the Taliban when she began speaking out publicly at age eleven, about women’s right to education in the Middle East. She then went on to write a blog about living under Taliban rule for the BBC Urdu. Yousafzai was living in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban had banned females from attending school. They saw her public efforts to encourage young women like herself to get an education as defying them, making her an enemy of the Taliban.
Being the resilient, young women that she is, Yousafzai survived the assassination attempt, in which she was shot in the head and neck. While many would back down after such an atrocity, Yousafzai did not even flinched in continuing her efforts to educate women. She continues to write publicly and even officially opened Europe’s largest library in her new hometown, Birmingham, England. This was only fitting for the girl whose dream is for educational establishments to be available “in all corners of the earth”. Yousafzai has even addressed the U.N. about her efforts, voicing her refusal to back-down. “They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed,” she said. “And then, out of that silence, came thousands of voices.”
And thousands of voices have come out in both support and admiration of Yousafzai, in the form of world leaders, activists, and students of all ages. The Taliban has publicly reestablished that Yousafzai remains a target, and that they would take pride in eliminating her. But it appears that there is no stopping Yousafzai, who is now a favorite in the running for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Today, her autobiography “I am Malala” was released, one day short of the one-year anniversary of the assassination attempt. An autobiography at 16 is almost unheard of, but she not only has the experiences and wisdom to fill the pages but also does so in a touching and electrifying manner. The book describes that horrifying day, the struggles and triumphs she has experienced since, and what may be ahead in the future.
Can you believe she’s only sixteen?