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Girls & Women

It’s Malala Day, and She’s Celebrating With Refugees in Kenya

You know you’ve left an impression when you're recognized by your first name around the world — and Malala is one of those names. 

So how does one get single-name recognition?

Malala is known around the world for her heroic and brave recovery after being shot by the Taliban for promoting girls’ access to education in her native Pakistan. She’s also won a Nobel Peace prize for continuing to advocate for girls’ education around the world. And it’s because of these accomplishments that July 12 is officially Malala Day.

And this year, Malala is launching a new campaign targeted at promoting opportunities for #YesAllGirls. Before we go into that, first learn a little bit about this awe-inspiring woman.

15-times-that-malala-nailed-itImage: Flickr: Junaidrao

Malala Yousafzai, named by her father Ziauddin after Pashtun heroine Malalai, was born on July 12, 1997, in Mingora, a small town in the Swat District of northwest Pakistan. 

Ziauddin was a known advocate for education in Pakistan and became an outspoken activist against the Taliban’s efforts to restrict girls’ access to school. Taking after her father, Malala became a passionate advocate for education for women and children around the world. 

In 2009, she began writing about her fears of militants for the BBC under a pseudonym. This led to death threats sent to both Malala and her father, but it did not stop them from fighting for the right to learn. In 2011 she received Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize.

Once Malala’s identity was revealed, the Taliban voted to kill her. On her way home from school one October afternoon in 2012, Malala’s school bus was stopped by the Taliban. It was then that Malala was called out by name and shot in the head — but she survived. The shooting made headlines around the world and led to protests across Pakistan. Pakistan eventually guaranteed education for girls under the Right To Free and Compulsory Education Bill.

In 2013, the Malala Fund was established, and in 2014, Malala was the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. 

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Long story short: Malala is a big deal — her bravery has made a lasting impact on this world and inspired thousands, if not millions, of others to stand up for girls’ right to education. Which is why on July 12, we celebrate Malala Day. Not only is it her birthday, but it’s also the date she delivered a speech at the UN about global education in 2013. This was her first public appearance after the shooting, and is also the day the UN officially declared the first-ever Malala Day. 

But Malala insists, “Malala Day is not my day.” Instead, she dedicates this day every year to help make the world a better place for all men, women and children in the world. 

In 2014, she dedicated the day to the girls experiencing violence in Nigeria by demanding the government take action to find the missing girls. Last year, she dedicated her day to Syrian refugee girls forced out of their school by conflict by opening a school for 200 girls in Lebanon. This year’s theme — #YesAllGirls — is a fight to educating girls everywhere. Read more about Malala’s new campaign here.

Malala spent the day in the world's largest refugee camp, located in Kenya. She voice concern at the Kenya's plans to shutter the camp because it could cause a "lost generation." The refugees would likely be moved to Somalia, where girls' access to education is minimal, the AP reported

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Malala has taken what could have been a tragic event in her life and turned it into a powerful opportunity to do exactly what her oppressors were trying to stop – educate more girls. Why does the Taliban want to stop girls from getting educated? Because they know that education leads to power, and they won’t be able to control women the way they can now.

If Malala can stand up to the Taliban, then you can stand up and do what’s right to help guarantee more girls access to education. Now is the time to take action.