When Malala Yousafzai was 13 years old she was shot in the head and neck by a Taliban gunman while returning home on a school bus.

photograph: AK Rockefeller

photograph: AK Rockefeller

She was targeted for assassination because she wrote a blog promoting education for girls. She lived in the Swat valley in northwest Pakistan where the Taliban had banned girls from going to school.

Miraculously, she survived the attack and was later sent to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England for rehabilitation.

In April this year she featured on the front cover of Time magazine as one of “The 100 Most Influential People In The World”.


She has since been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the youngest nominee in history.

Last Friday this courageous and eloquent young woman was invited to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Here is a highlight.

So what can we do to change the world?

They say the best way is one person at a time.

I know I am preaching to the converted here on this blog. But let me say it anyway – I think we might all do this at the very least: do not fear or hate people because they follow another religion.

We might remember that Malala is Muslim.

We might also remember that young guy from Egypt, who I showed you last week in Arab Politics 101, and remember that he is a Muslim too.

They both want what we all want; peace and justice.

The other thing we might all do to help these inspirational young people is distinguish in our own lives between religion and misogyny. A love of God does not equal a hatred of women.

In other words, whether you are Muslim, Christian or a lapsed vegetarian, never allow your spiritual beliefs to be manipulated for political purposes.

Here, he says it better than me:


If you want to see Malala’s full 17 minute speech at the UN, go here.

About colinfalconer

author of bestselling historical novels like Anastasia, When We Were Gods, Aztec and Harem. My books have been published in the UK, US and ANZ and translated into seventeen languages.
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  1. filbio says:

    She is an inspiration. They both are. It’s amazing she survived the shooting. Even at such a young age these two are worlds beyond what most older people think and say. People should really pay heed to what they are saying.

  2. I’m so delighted when you find such stories.I don’t have time to do much looking , so it is most appreciated this seeing such inspired and inspiring youth with the courage of their convictions. Many thanks.

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