18 Dec 2018
On Monday the 10th of December, Malala Yousafzai, International activist for girls’ education, and youngest Nobel Prize laureate came to the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Sydney. Malala was brought to Australia for the very first time by The Growth Faculty as part of their Women World Changers speaker series. At the invitation of NAB Private, I was fortunate to attend this event with WiBF’s CEO, Jen Dalitz, and learn from a true social justice icon.
From the moment Malala stepped onto the stage, she emphasised that you are never too young to make a difference. “I was 11 years old when I started speaking out … I was not thinking for a second that just because I was young I could not change the world.”
Over the course of an hour, Malala shared how back in 2008 she had begun to write blogs, expressing the importance of girls education, in response to the Taliban’s ban that stopped her and around 5000 other girls in her home of Swat, Pakistan from being able to go to school. Malala recalled the moment she found out that she could no longer receive her education. “I still remember that day, that time, when I thought I was losing my dreams. No girl would be allowed to go to school. No girl had the right to become a doctor, a teacher or an engineer. Girls were limited to the four walls of their houses. They couldn’t be human.”
On the 9th of October 2012, when Malala was only 15 years old, she and two other girls were shot by a member of the Taliban in a targeted attack against those who defied their education ban. Despite their attempt to silence her, Malala survived the assault. After receiving lifesaving treatment at Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology in Pakistan, Malala was able to be transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, UK. Despite the danger she experienced, Malala continued to speak her mind, and stand up for what she believed in: not only education for the girls in Pakistan, but for the 130 million girls worldwide who do not have access to schooling.
Just looking at Malala’s list of accomplishments is enough to know how much courage and commitment she has to making a positive change in the world. With her father, Ziauddin, Malala created a non-for-profit organisation Malala Fund to help fight for girls education. She co-wrote an international best seller, I am Malala which tells of her remarkable story. She has won multiple peace prizes around the world, and in 2013, 2014, and 2015 she was named as one of the most influential people worldwide by Time magazine. With such an incredible record of achievements, it is hard to believe she is a 21-year-old university student. Having been a supporter of hers for a long time, seeing her come out on stage was surreal, however as soon as she began to speak, she captured the hearts of everyone watching with her insightfulness and authentic human spirit.
In the 2015 American documentary, He Named Me Malala, she said “My father only gave me the name Malala, he didn’t make me Malala. I chose this life and now I must continue with it.” During the talk, she elaborated on the importance of her name. She explained that while many women in her country are only referred to in relation to a man i.e. sister, wife, or daughter of (insert male), her father named her after a legendary female who climbed a mountain and called out to soldiers on a battlefield, giving them a renewed spirit that lead to their triumph. The story shows the power of a women’s voice, and through her incredible actions both before and after the horrifying attempt on her life, she not only lived up to her namesake, but became an icon of hope and peace in her own right.
Her Sydney talk was the first out of two exclusive talks. The other was held in Melbourne the following day. Being met with thunderous applause, Malala not only shared her story, but also messages of hope to all of those who listened. “I raise my voice,” she said “Not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard… when the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” Malala currently studies Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Oxford University, and wants to continue making a difference using the platform she has been given by the world.
Chelsea Wick is Media and Communications Coordinator at WIBF and is passionate about family, friends, enjoying the little things in life, and being positive.
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