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What is Malala Day?

July 2, 2024

On July 12, the United Nations recognizes Malala Day in honor of education activist Malala Yousafzai. It’s also her birthday and the day she spoke to the UN in 2013.

Who is Malala Yousafzai?

On July 12, 1997, Malala was born in Mingora, Pakistan. Her father, Ziauddin, ran a girls’ school and wanted to make sure his daughter received the same education as a boy would. Malala began speaking about education rights in 2008 when she was only 11. Her activism included blogging for the BBC. In 2009, the Taliban shut down schools for girls where Malala lived. Despite the danger, she continued to speak out and became known internationally. In 2011, Archbishop Desmond Tutu nominated her for the International Children’s Peace Prize.

In 2012, a Taliban gunman entered Malala’s school bus and shot the 15-year-old in the head. She survived. On her 16th birthday in 2013, while wearing the late Benazir Bhutto’s shawl, Malala gave a speech to the United Nations on the topic of youth education. When discussing the Taliban’s assassination attempt, she said, “They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices.” Since her speech, the UN has designated July 12 as Malala Day, though Malala has said: “Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights.”

In 2014, Malala was named the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her work promoting equal education rights for all children. At 17, she remains the youngest Nobel Laureate at the time of this article’s writing. In 2020, Malala graduated from Oxford University with a philosophy, politics, and economics degree. With her father, she’s the co-founder of Malala Fund, an international nonprofit organization advocating for girls’ education.