Malala's impact, two years after her shooting
Published Friday, October 10, 2014 11:16AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, October 10, 2014 12:40PM EDT
Just two years ago, Malala Yousafzai was an unknown to most of the world. A 15-year-old blogger, she wrote about how the Taliban had shut down schools in her province, trying to deny girls like her an education.
Then, Taliban gunmen stormed her school bus. Calling out "Who is Malala?", they shot her and a schoolmate at point-blank range, and within weeks Malala became a symbol of the plight of girls around the world who want nothing more than the right to learn.
Today, Malala is a Nobel Peace Prize winner being lauded for her bravery in continuing a fight she began at age 11.
Malala was whisked away to England for treatment after the shooting. With militants in Pakistan vowing to kill her if she ever returned, Malala and her family have made a new home in Birmingham, U.K.
These days, she attends the private Edgbaston High School for Girls. She also dreams of returning to Pakistan to become prime minister, "because through politics, I can serve my whole country," she told CNN during a trip to the U.S. last year.
Within weeks of the assassination attempt, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, took up her story and launched a petition in her name. The Malala Petition urged the United Nations to recommit to Millennium Development Goal 2, which promises that all children, boys and girls alike, should be able to complete primary schooling.
Malala was the first to sign the petition. More than 3 million signatures followed, prompting Pakistan to pass a Right to Education bill.
Last summer, the United Nations declared July 12 – Malala's 16th birthday – as Malala Day. On that day, Malala delivered a moving speech at the United Nations Youth Assembly, and spoke of the need for education for all children.
"Malala Day is not my day," she said. "Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights."
“Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education First,” she said.
She also went on to create the Malala Fund, which campaigns for girls' education around the world. As the fund's representative, Malala travelled to Jordan earlier this year, meeting with Syrian refugees and raising money to bring education of the thousands of refugee children who have been displaced from their homes.
She also travelled to Nigeria on her birthday to try to focus the world's attention on the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram. As she held hands with some of the girls who escaped, she addressed the captors, saying: "Lay down your weapons. Release your sisters. Release my sisters. Release the daughters of this nation. Let them be free. They have committed no crime."
Last fall, she released a memoir co-written with a U.K. journalist, entitled "I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban." It has gone on to become a bestseller.
But at the school that Malala once attended in Pakistan, the mood is not as hopeful. The United Nations reports that Pakistan continues to have one of the largest number of girls in the world who are not attending school.
The Associated Press visited Malala's former school in the Swat Valley one year ago and reported that as the children's rights advocate's fame had grown, so had threats against the school. The principal confided that although the Taliban had finally left the area, their presence remained and students continued to live in fear.