Shining at 17! Malala Yousafzai was announced Friday, Oct. 10, as the youngest recipient in history to be awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize. The honor comes nearly two years after the Pakistani activist was shot in the head in 2012, catapulting the teen into the international spotlight.
Yousafzai was a 15-year-old blogger who championed education for girls in Pakistan when the assassination attempt took place. In 2009, she penned her first-person account under a pseudonym for the BBC, writing about the harsh realities of living under Taliban occupation. She was publicly identified in December 2009 by her father. One year later, the New York Times filmed a documentary about Yousafzai’s life, bringing even more awareness to the young activist’s campaign to educate girls.
On Oct. 9, 2012, masked and armed Taliban men boarded Yousafzai’s school bus and shot her in the head. After a botched operation in her native country, Yousafzai was airlifted to the U.K. to recover, while the Taliban threatened to kill her and her father.
By then, the world had rushed to support and defend her. Nine months later, Yousafzai delivered a powerful speech before the U.N. on her 16th birthday. “They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed,” she said. “Out of that silence came thousands of voices… Strength, power and courage was born.” Yousafzai co-authored I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban and established the Malala Fund, which seeks to protect girls’ rights to education.
Celebrities have rushed to support the teen activist in the last two years, including America Ferrera and Reese Witherspoon, who was introduced to Yousafzai’s story by her 15-year-old daughter Ava. “My daughter brought her book to me and said, ‘Mom, you’ve got to hear this woman’s story,'” Witherspoon told Variety in a recent interview. “She’s an incredible speaker, she has such humor, and she’s doing incredible things in the world. And she’s only just begun.”
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif released a statement (via CNN) congratulating the teen for her accomplishments on Friday. “She is (the) pride of Pakistan, she has made her countrymen proud,” he said. “Her achievement is unparalleled and unequaled… Girls and boys of the world should take lead from her struggle and commitment.”
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