- Five years since Malala's assassination attempt, she has become an international symbol
- She has won countless prizes for her human rights work, including the Nobel Peace Prize
- Critics in Pakistan denounce Malala as an agent of the West sent to shame Pakistan
- She is currently studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics at Oxford University
By Ty Joplin
Five years ago today, Malala Yousafzai was riding a schoolbus on her way home when a Taliban member boarded the bus. He demanded to know which student was Malala, then he shot her in the head.
Miraculously the young Pakistani activist survived the attempt on her life. Though she was a prominent voice for girls’ access to education in Pakistan, her story of struggle and survival struck a nerve with the world, and she was catapulted into international fame.
Malala became a symbol for girls everywhere who must overcome countless obstacles to try to attain the same quality of life as their male counterparts.
The world anxiously awaited her recovery, so that she could be flown around the world to meet with world leaders and accept prestigious awards for her advocacy.
A crowd lights candles as Malala is hospitalized AFP/File
She won the Mother Teresa Award, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, was listed as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, and became the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She even won the National Youth Peace Prize of Pakistan, which was then renamed the National Malala Peace Prize.
And though she is lauded by Western audiences everywhere for her bravery, the reception in Pakistan to her success is more mixed.
Some call her a ‘Western Agent,’ openly doubting that she was actually shot by the Taliban. They posit that she and her family are spies on a mission to make Pakistan look bad, since Malala decried the state of human rights in the embattled country.
More level-headed critiques of her rail against the fact that she has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions abroad, while thousands of other anonymous girls in Pakistan face the same struggle but receive no attention or awards for it.
The U.N. made July 12, 2013 ‘Malala Day.’ Many Pakistanis reacted to that and the release of Malala’s book I am Malala, by launching a protest of their own, calling it ‘I Am Not Malala Day.’
Courtesy of Facebook
As Malala transcended her previous status as an advocate for Pakistani advocate for girls’ education to global feminist icon, many in her own country feel abandoned by her.
Though she cannot come back to Pakistan due to safety concerns, much of her work and money from her eponymous charity, the Malala Fund, has gone to Nigeria and Lebanon rather than solely focusing within Pakistan.
The price of the ticket for becoming such a global symbol seems to be that those she initially represented feel like she was taken from them by the West, who won her over with awards, fame and a lucrative book deal.
Malala’s campaign for education has come full circle, as she was accepted into the University of Oxford and began her undergraduate degree on Oct. 1. She is now studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE) at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford--a once all-women's college renowned for producing inspiring women figures.
One of Malala’s own personal heroes, Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto, studied at Lady Margaret Hall before becoming one of the most accomplished politicians in Pakistan.
Both Bhutto and Yousafzai risked their lives standing up for what they believe in. Bhutto unfortunately paid the ultimate price for it, but Malala continues to fight for girls’ access to education all over the world.
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