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Unpacking the Malala Yousafzai's Book: Lessons on Freedom and Fighting for Rights

Malala Yousafzai's "I Am Malala" reveals the struggles and triumphs of a young girl fighting for education and women's rights. Read on to uncover powerful lessons on resilience, freedom, and the transformative power of knowledge.

Malala Yousafzai Book

Somewhere in the world, an ordinary 14-year-old girl has no right to go to school. And it's not about the family's financial situation. She does not have the right to receive an education. Such a situation is hard to imagine in this day and age. However, this is the reality. Malala's story depicted in her book "I Am Malala" is vivid and powerful. It illustrates the situation in countries where freedom is not a common topic of discussion.

It is about a girl from Pakistan's Swat Valley who bravely challenged the Taliban and showed how one person can make a difference. Malala Yousafzai wants every child to have the chance to attend school, no matter who they are. She became an international symbol of the fight for girls' education after an attempt was made to shoot her in 2012 for speaking out against Taliban restrictions on women's education in her native Pakistan

Biographical overview

Malala Yousafzai was born in the summer of 1997 in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. She spent her childhood in Mingora, the center of the border province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the largest settlement in the historical region of Swat. The family members, Sunni Muslims of Pashtun nationality, lived more than modestly, so the girl was born at home. As an infant, she was cared for by her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, and mother, Toor Pekai.

Father’s influence on school education

Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, owned private schools in Pakistan and was an education activist. It was vital for him to give his daughter a quality education. Thanks to him, Malala had the opportunity to learn reading, writing, mathematics, natural sciences, the official languages ​​of Afghanistan and Pakistan, Pashto and Urdu, and English. Malala was lucky to have a father who encouraged her thirst for knowledge and believed she could make a difference in the world.

"My father always said, Malala will be as free as a bird."

Malala Yousafzai about her father

Childhood memories

In her book, Malala described schooling as a joyful period. However, this joy was overshadowed by the fear of the militants who held power in the valley. As children, they were afraid of the men on the streets, often mistaking them for Taliban members. Young girls hid their briefcases and books under their shawls because girls' education had become dangerous and was not welcomed by the Taliban.

Malala recalls how her father enjoyed seeing students in school uniforms, eager to gain knowledge. However, as the situation worsened, wearing a school uniform became a source of fear. This shift highlights the harsh reality that many students face in regions plagued by conflict and extremism.

Open Minds

Malala's school's partnership with the IWPR (Institute for War and Peace Reporting)'s Open Minds Schools Network provided her with a platform to amplify her voice globally. From 2009 to 2010, this project worked in Pakistan and engaged youth in developing discussion skills.

At 12, Malala Yousafzai had already earned a reputation as a literate speaker and joined the Open Minds program, which emphasized social activism and journalism. This experience allowed Malala and her fellow students to meet publishers and heads of local and foreign television and radio stations, magazines, and newspapers.

Malala's blog

The world first heard about Malala when she started blogging for BBC Urdu at 11. She talked about life under the government regime in Pakistan. There were posts about how the Taliban tried to take control of their home region of Swat and the subsequent confrontation with the national armed forces.

In addition, the young author presented her personal views on education in her country. She advocated for girls to be able to attend schools throughout the country. She described a new reality in which the Taliban burned down schools and executed the slightest infraction of the rules they wanted to enforce. Fazlullah, a militant leader, began broadcasting the popular "Radio Mullah," which initially offered advice on issues such as ritual ablutions but later instructed women to stay at home.

Yousafzai's literary talent and truthful depiction of events earned her the annual National Pakistan Youth Peace Prize. In 2011, this award even was named after Malala.

After revealing her identity, Malala and her father, Ziauddin, continued to speak up for the right to education. Their proactive stance has made them a target for terrorists.

"I spoke out publicly on behalf of girls and our right to learn. And this made me a target."

Malala yousafzai on her childhood

School bus attack

In October 2009, the Taliban stopped the school bus she was riding in and shot her point-blank in the head. Fortunately, she miraculously survived and, at 17, became the youngest person to win the Nobel Prize. Although she continually faces death threats from the Taliban, Malala persists in her fight for girls' right to an education. This story is an inspiration to us all, to stand for what we believe even though it sometimes might be unsafe and risky.

"It was then I knew I had a choice: I could live a quiet life or I could make the most of this new life I had been given. I determined to continue my fight until every girl could go to school."

Malala ousafzai story

"I Am Malala" book details

Reading the book "I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban" is like hearing from Malala Yousafzai herself - a brave Pakistani girl who, in the 21st century, together with her father, fights for women's right to education. Her story is frank and bright despite all the horrors she describes. Everything is here: her home, Swat Valley, the Taliban, corruption, and the rivalry between girls in schools for academic achievements.

This is the story of a young person and, at the same time, a big country. Tens of millions of women in Pakistan don’t have access not only to education but also to other human rights. Their lives are predetermined: they must serve and please men. They still have a tradition according to which a girl can be given as a gift to an enemy clan to end hostility.

The book chronicles Yousafzai's childhood, her father and his activism, the rise and fall of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in the Swat Valley, and the assassination attempt on 15-year-old Yousafzai on October 9, 2012, because of her activism in women's education. The book received rave reviews from critics and won several awards, but it was banned at many schools in Pakistan.

Structure of "I Am Malala"

The book consists of five parts:

  • Part one covers Malala Yousafzai's life before the Taliban. The girl describes her childhood home, the Swat Valley.

  • Part two, "Valley of Death," details the emergence of Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan in Swat. Malala began writing a blog for the BBC in Urdu under the pseudonym Gul Mukai. Her school was closed after a Taliban decree in 2009, and her family had to move to Shangla for three months.

  • The third part is called "Three Bullets, Three Girls". By August 2009, the army had defeated the Taliban in Swat, and the Yousafzai family had returned. In late 2011, Malala Yousafzai won her first award for her activism. She went to Karachi, where she interviewed with Geo TV. Yousafzai began receiving death threats, which worried her parents. After her piece on Pakistan was published on October 9, two men stopped a school bus and entered. One shouted, "Which one of you is Malala?" and fired three times.

  • Part four is called "Between Life and Death." One bullet passed through the left eye socket and exited under the left shoulder. Her friends Shazia and Kainata also sustained non-fatal injuries.

  • The fifth part is called "Second Life." On October 16, Malala Yousafzai woke up in Birmingham. She lives in Birmingham but misses Swat and plans to continue her activism.

"I am Malala" was published on October 8, 2013, by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (UK) and Little, Brown and Company (USA). The book has been translated into more than 40 languages.

This book has different formats. In 2014, a young readers' edition of the memoir was published, "I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World," in collaboration with Patricia McCormick. Patricia's task was to prompt Malala to share more deeply than she had done before. She aimed to unveil more about Malala as an ordinary girl, revealing personal aspects of her story that would resonate with other children. Voiced by Neela Vaswani, the audiobook won the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Children's Album.

Awards and recognition

Malala Yousafzai made history by becoming the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate at 17. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 in recognition of her courageous advocacy for girls' education

Malala's activism continues to drive positive change and empower communities globally. In Pakistan, more than 2 million people signed a petition for the right to education, and the National Assembly ratified Pakistan's first law on the right to free compulsory education.

UN speech

After a rehabilitation course, the Pakistani activist continued her work. On the anniversary of the assassination attempt, the girl gave a speech to members of the UN when she was 16. At the same time, American and British publishing houses published a biography book, "I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban," created by Yousafzai and professional reporter Christina Lamb. The presentation was followed by a statement from the Taliban that the author would face a terrible death.

Malala Fund

The threats did not deter the activists. In 2013, Malala and her father founded the Malala Fund to raise awareness of the social and economic impact of girls' education and to empower girls to demand change. In December 2014, Malala became the youngest laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize. She got the Philadelphia Medal of Freedom and other awards and honors. Yousafzai's speeches continued to raise issues of women's education and participation in cultural life. The topic of other freedoms of representatives of Muslim society also developed. Another important aspect was the protection of children's rights. 

TV shows and documentary

Having gained worldwide fame, Malala repeatedly came to the studios of popular television shows. The TV stars who conducted the interviews included Jon Stewart and David Letterman. Yousafzai became the subject of the documentary He Named Me Malala, which was nominated for an Oscar in 2015.

Political activity

In 2017, Secretary-General António Guterres appointed Malala as a United Nations Messenger of Peace to help raise awareness of the importance of girls' education.

In 2021, Yusafzai became aware of the aggravation of the political situation in Afghanistan, which led to the almost universal establishment of the Taliban regime. Malala expressed concern about the loss of achievements in human rights. She condemned Afghanistan's Taliban rulers and called on the international community to declare gender apartheid a crime against humanity.

In light of this, in 2022, Malala spoke about women’s right to make clothing-related decisions on their own. Despite the rules established in the Muslim world, they are free to refuse the burqa.

Current activities

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai emphasized the vital necessity of "free and fair elections" in her homeland of Pakistan, urging elected officials to respect the will of the voters.

The Malala Fund tirelessly works to dismantle the barriers preventing over 130 million girls from accessing education. Their strategy for driving real change is investing in local education activists in regions where girls face significant obstacles to schooling. 

The Education Champion Network by Malala Fund supports leaders who are working hard to make sure girls get 12 years of education. This year, the winners are from Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Tanzania, each with their own special projects. Together, they make a strong team of people who are determined to create a world where every girl has the chance to learn and make a difference.

Book club

Yousafzai has always strongly believed in the importance of reading and learning. In 2013, she made a memorable speech at the U.N. Youth Assembly, saying,

"One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world."

Beliefs of Malala Yousafzai

If you're deeply passionate about current global issues and love reading books, then Malala Yousafzai's book club is something you should explore. You can receive book recommendations directly from the Nobel Prize winner herself. Malala has partnered with the Austin-based literary startup Literati to launch a monthly book club.

The book club "Fearless" aims to spotlight the work of overlooked authors. All the books chosen so far have been written by women.

Other books by Malala

It is worth noting that:

  • In 2017, Malala wrote her first picture book, "Malala's Magic Pencil." This book will teach you to dream and see the way to your goals, even when it is tough for you - hold on to your dreams, study, and you will reach them.

  • "Malala Speaks Out," published in 2018, focuses on Malala's advocacy for girls' education and her efforts to promote gender equality worldwide. It offers insights into Malala's journey, her experiences as an activist, and her vision for a more just and equitable world.

  • "Malala: My Story of Standing Up for Girls' Rights" was published in 2018. It is an inspiring and empowering narrative for young readers, encouraging them to stand up for their beliefs and make a positive difference in their communities.

  • "We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World," published in 2019, is a collection of personal stories from refugee girls worldwide, including Malala's experiences as a refugee. Through these stories, Malala aims to raise awareness about the plight of refugees and inspire action to support their rights and well-being.

Youth activism

The Chairman of the Nobel Committee, Thorbjørn Jagland, announced the committee's decision and emphasized that despite her young age, Malala Yousafzai has been fighting for girls' right to education for several years. Through her example, she has shown that children and young people can also contribute to improving their situations and be influential.

Malala Yousafzai's book encourages reflection on the role of women in society. The modern optimal society is a society of success. Social success is achieved when people realize their full potential and receive recognition from others for their accomplishments. A fair society ensures that everyone can freely express themselves, participate in public discourse, and contribute to decision-making processes, regardless of background.

Favorite quotes from "I Am Malala"

"It was school that kept me going in those dark days. When I was in the street it felt as though every man I passed might be a Talib. We hid our school bags in our shawls. My father always said that the most beautiful thing in a village in the morning is the sight of a child in a school uniform, but now we were afraid to wear them."

"Peace in every home, every street, every village, every country – this is my dream."

malala on her dream of peace

"As we crossed the Malakand Pass I saw a young girl selling oranges. She was scratching marks on a piece of paper with a pencil to account for the oranges she had sold, as she could not read or write. I took a photo of her and vowed I would do everything in my power to help educate girls just like her. This was the war I was going to fight."

"'They are abusing our religion,' I said in interviews. 'How will you accept Islam if I put a gun to your head and say Islam is the true religion? If they want every person in the world to be Muslim why don’t they show themselves to be good Muslims first?'"

"My father wanted us to be inspired by our great hero, but in a manner fit for our times - with pens, not swords."

"I am very proud to be a Pashtun, but sometimes I think our code of conduct has a lot to answer for, particularly where the treatment of women is concerned."

malala about fighting for freedom

Discover "I am Malala" on the Headway app

The memoirs of Malala Yousafzai, an indomitable Pakistani girl, not only show how to fight for human rights but also highlight that true progress in our world is measured by the extent to which it allows everyone to be free and dignified. Malala's story is a powerful reminder of the impact one person can have on the world.

If you want to dig deeper into stories like Malala's and learn about other inspiring human rights fighters, the Headway app is an excellent resource. Headway values knowledge and provides the opportunity to learn new things anywhere. The app offers 15-minute text and audiobook summaries, visual explainers, and daily insights. With Headway, you can quickly familiarize yourself with world bestsellers like "I Am Malala." Download the app to explore inspiring stories of human rights fighters and broaden your understanding in just minutes a day.

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