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How Malala Finds—and Keeps Finding—Her Courage

Malala Yousafzai at the 2019 MA Conference for Women

Malala Yousafzai took on the Taliban at the tender age of 10. At 15, she survived an assassination attempt. At 16, she became the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize. You might think nothing scares her.

But she admitted, perhaps inadvertently, there is something that does: Boston weather. “I am excited and happy to see snow,” Malala, a now 22-year-old Oxford University student, told the audience. “But it’s also freezing cold. I’m too scared to go out.”

More seriously, she was asked to follow up on something she said after the Taliban lodged a bullet in her head at close range: “They thought a bullet would silence my voice but, with it, weakness, fear and hopelessness died and strength, courage and hope were born.”

How does she summon that kind of courage on an ongoing basis as she travels to some of the world’s most dangerous places as founder of the Malala Fund?

“For me, the cause of equality for girls’ education is something much bigger than me; and for that, somebody has to step up,” she said. “I realize that when you speak out, people will target you, bully you, and harass you through social media.

“But the whole intention of those things is to silence you,” she added. “If I stay silent, that means giving upon my cause and missing out on living a purposeful life, which is important to me. So, that is why I stick to my objectives and keep on fighting.”

Time for Action in the U.S.

Asked where she sees the greatest room for improvement in gender equality in the United States, Malala responded simply, “Everywhere.”

“Inequality is often associated with developing countries but it is a global issue,” she added. “It’s important to realize we all can play a part in this. If you see something unfair happening, whether based on gender or race or any other identity, you have to step up and challenge it.”

The good news is that improvements are taking place—and appear likely to continue in the future. “More women are coming forward to challenge inequality,” Malala said. “We are done talking. Now is the time for action.”


Read more from the December 2019 newsletter.

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