“When you educate women, society changes completely.” Nobel laureate, global icon, and fearless women’s rights and education activist Malala Yousafzai, 19, has been named a UN Messenger of Peace, making history as the youngest ever to receive the UN’s highest honor. Malala was also the youngest person to win a Nobel Peace Prize back in 2014, when she was just 17 years old.
As a child in Pakistan, Malala was an advocate for girls’ education. She wrote an anonymous diary for BBC about living under Taliban rule, where they threatened to ban girls from attending school. Her identity became revealed and Malala and her father, who is also an education activist, started to receive death threats, but they continued to speak out against the Taliban.
In 2012, a Taliban gunman shot Malala in the head. She was on a bus heading home from school with her friends, two of whom were wounded as well. Malala was 15 years old.
The assault drew international outcry and led to protests across Pakistan. Malala was in critical condition and had to be flown to a hospital in Birmingham, England, but months later, she was released.
Malala has tirelessly fought for girls’ right to education ever since. In 2013, she founded the Malala fund, which works to secure education for girls around the world, and in 2014, used her $500,000 Nobel prize money to finance the creation of a secondary school for girls in Pakistan. Malala celebrated her 18th birthday in 2015 by opening a school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon.