Posted by: hannah.yaz | February 13, 2019

Speaking Out

Because I want to be a teacher, I chose to discuss a story related to education.  Some of you may have heard of her already, but if not I encourage you to read more about this incredible woman.  Malala Yousafzai was born in Mingora, Pakistan on July 12, 1997.  While growing up, Malala’s father was a teacher and ran a girls’ school in their village.  Malala loved going to school every day.  In January of 2008, the Taliban took control of Malala’s town in Swat Valley.  The extremists banned many things and prohibited girls from going to school.  If anyone rebelled against them, there were harsh punishments.  In 2012, Malala exposed herself as a target because she decided to speak out publicly on behalf of girls and their right to learn.  In October of 2012, Malala was on her way home from school (I’m not sure exactly when girls became able to go to school again?) when a masked gunman walked onto her school bus.  He asked who Malala was and proceeded to shoot her in the left side of her head. 

She woke up in a hospital bed 10 days later in Birmingham, England where she was told what happened.  Malala went through months of surgeries and rehabilitation and was released to live with her family in their new home in the United Kingdom.  Together, Malala and her father established Malala Fund in order to help girls around the world earn the right to an education.  Malala received the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2014 and is the youngest-ever Nobel laureate.  Currently, she studies at the University of Oxford and continues to fight for each girl to have a free, safe and quality education.  She travels around the world to meet these girls and spread the word, and she encourages everyone she meets to participate in this fight for equality. 

I chose to share this because not only is Malala’s story inspirational, it is crucial in understanding leadership.  Rather than fearfully accepting defeat and helplessness, she took a stand for what she believed in and continues to fight day after day because it is important to her.  I think we all can use this lesson in our lives by figuring out what is truly important to us and deciding to make a difference about it.  I don’t think we should focus so much on gender on this situation; we should contemplate the fact that she stood up for herself and fought back against an unjust and broken system.  One quote from Malala that stuck out to me is “I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls.”  Many people feel as if they cannot exercise leadership because they think they aren’t powerful enough, influential enough or even qualified.  However, everyone should have the right to be heard and use their voice freely.


  1. This article is so inspiring. She fought for something she believed so heavily for and we can definitely all take a lesson away from this. I thought about the documentary we just watch in class with how passionate she was about saving their forest and helping the environment. I hope that we can all feel so passionately about something. These people are the ones we remember forever. It is truly amazing that she is so young, but such a powerful leader. I am still in shock that she made it through that head trauma, that is really crazy. But it is the hardships that make someone learn the most and get them to the finish line.

  2. This article is truly amazing and for her to be the same age as us and experience and go through everything she did, I could never imagine that. Her story is so inspiring and for someone at the age of 15 to speak out about what she believed in is amazing. To be the youngest to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize and continue to travel around the world speaking and fighting for women to have equal education is an amazing achievement that A LOT of people are age can say have done or even strive for. Her story allows young individuals to see how setting you mind to something and becoming passionate about it will get you very far. Her leadership throughout this story is something that everyone can take away. I think it is important to recognize, like Malala did, that although her story is unique, it’s more important to focus on the fact that young girls feel as though they cannot be leaders because they “powerful, influential, or qualified”, but I agree with you Hannah that everyone deserves the chance to use their voice freely and be heard.

  3. Malala’s story is an inspiration to millions of girls across the world, and she has done so much to make education more accessible. To think that Malala is close to my age and had the courage to stand up to the Taliban is awe-inspiring. Her situation in regards to her safety reminds me of the article we read that mentioned the safety concerns that lesbian leaders may face in everyday life. Since we’ve began discussing intersectionality, this was the first time that I had really considered women in leadership as a safety concern. I feel like Malala’s situation resonates with this extremely well, and it adds on to the complexity of her leadership.

    What role does the threat to an individual’s safety play in leadership? I think that people that fear for their safety are sort of forced to alter the way in which they lead; if not for themselves, then for the safety of the people they care about. I also think this adds an element to the intersectionality of leadership that we’ve been discussing in class. It would be really interesting to discuss how these individuals lead differently from others and if the effectiveness of their leadership is impacted in tougher situations.

    • I absolutely love Malala’s story and have written different essays about her throughout my college and high school career. However, I want to reflect more on the question you posted in your reply, “what role does the threat to an individual’s safety play in leadership?” I think in the case of Malala, her desire to overcome this obstacle that the women of her country were facing was more of the focus than anything else. She knew the repercussions that could occur if she were to fight/go against the Taliban. And she was actually placed in many different situations where her safety was taken away. Yet, I think that because of the cause at hand and because of her passion for this, she was willing to give up that safety in hopes of creating a community of education for women. I think this idea of safety and leadership goes hand in hand with the passion and drive people to have for their cause and for their followers. We can also think about this in regard to the intersectionality article and the discussion with women who are in the LGBTQ community who fear their safety. Great question to help move the conversation and discussion!!

  4. Malala’s story is very inspiring! There are so many different contexts and situations where leaders can arise. It is sad that her story is true for so many other girls, but it is important for women like her to stand up for their rights. By sharing the stories, it raises awareness and gets more people involved. Then, by working together, it is easier to combat these issues. In this situation, it takes a brave person to lead because of the dangerous repercussions. I also believe in this type of situation, there needs to be outside help from somebody who is not involved in the culture. The United Nations has been a great resource for sharing these stories at the Commission on the Status of Women Conference.

  5. This is an amazing story and I love the quote at the end that stated “I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls.” because it emphasizes that there are issues all the time including today that are issues for many many people and that is what needs to be discussed. Women’s struggle in leadership is a problem that many women face and this story is inspiring to go out and make an effort to end these issues.

    Keeping people from their full potential is only harmful to the world as a whole. There are so many brilliant people who never get the opportunity to give back to people and communities due to the fact they’re restricted from certain rights simply because of discrimination. Malala is an amazing role model when it comes to the efforts that need to be made to giving women these opportunities of education so that women can continue fighting against the battles and barriers on women leaders.

  6. Malala is an amazing individual and it is a miracle she is alive today to tell her story, continuing to inspire many people. If she were to have died from the gunshot, I am sure her heroic account would be different than what is it today. I am positive her name would be known around the world, but it would be a different situation since she would not be able to live out her story and beliefs, preaching about her unjust conditions.

    Perseverance is a difficult thing, something that is seen through many women in the leadership field who have worked hard to achieve the roles they hold. Malala was extremely purposeful in her intentions to go to school and get an education. She did not let anything get in her way and was not afraid of the obstacles (such as the Taliban) threatening her rights. This type of perseverance is shown across the board as propelling women and men to success in leadership positions. Strong individuals who are not affected by their surroundings, yet persistent in their beliefs, are the ones that are going to change the world.

  7. This girl is amazing and the fact that she is the same age as many of us just makes her more incredible. I think Malala’s story shows that you can make a difference in the world no matter what factors stand in the way, whether that be age, race or gender it doesn’t matter as long as you fight hard enough. I think another important takeaway from her story is that if a leader is passionate enough about their cause or whatever it is they are doing, they can make it happen. I think it is so important for leaders to stand up for what they believe in because that is how people make a change and a difference in the world.

  8. Hearing Malala’s story, and watching any documentary of her, always proves to be incredibly inspiring for myself. What I find most amazing about her story is her resiliency post-accident. If shot in the head, I would argue that is the point where many of us would very fairly decide to take things slower or stop altogether. However, that experience only emboldened her efforts and determination. Many of us will face “bumps” much smaller than that and feel an overwhelming urge to give up or quit. Especially as women, we feel incredible pressure to consistently perform at our peak with little to no mistakes or missteps. But in Malala’s case, her accident became part of her identities that boosted her cause and her follower’s willingness to rally behind her. Her story serves as a constant reminder to persevere in the face of adversity and struggle.

  9. Something that has stood out to me about leadership and especially women in leadership as we’ve been studying this semester is the influence parents and childhood might have on one’s leadership later on in life. As we read those handouts of women leaders in class, they all mention something about their childhood or remember a quote their parents telling them that drives them to become the leader they are today. Mary Bara, in her article explaining how she became the first woman CEO of a GM explained how her mother told her “whatever you’re going to do, do it well” and her father worked for GM. Nikki Haley was the first Indian-American woman to be elected governor and she remembers telling her little brother as a child that she wanted to be mayor one day and her mother always told her “your job is not to show people how you’re different. It’s to show them how you’re similar”. I see this in Malala too. Whenever you read her story, and you included it in your blog post as well, it is always mentioned that her father was a teacher and ran a girls school. Had her father not been a teacher and had not run a school for girls would Malala still activate so passionately for education and education specifically for women?

  10. This story is amazing and honestly so inspiring. I have so much respect for the courage and perseverance that she showed, even at such a young age. I think this was a good story to kind of put everything in perspective of where we are right now, in terms of our own culture juxtaposed with places like this. It feels like this story should be set back hundreds of years, because how we live now seems so far removed from that kind of culture. It’s very eye-opening to me to remember that places like this, where women (and especially young girls) are oppressed and horribly mistreated, still exist in fullness to this day. It also reminds me that even our history is not so far removed from where we are today; even the civil rights movement was really not that long ago. We talk every day about the difficulties that different minority groups face in our country, and in no way do I want to invalidate those struggles, but I think stories like this help put everything in perspective.

  11. Wow, Malala’s story is so inspirational and amazing after the violence she was faced after trying to fight the broken system of education in her country. In South Asia, especially in Pakistan, their social system is dominated by a patriarchy which is enforced through religion and government. Many women who belong in this culture have little to no rights, which has been the custom for thousands of years. After women all over the world have been fighting for the access to basic human rights, it is only a matter of time before those women who have none stand up for themselves. Malala’s bravery in continuing to raise awareness and help young women gain access to education around the world is something I will respect for the rest of my life. Not only did she not let her assaulter deter her from her goal, but she has stepped up to a leadership position selflessly empowering women all over the world.

  12. I have heard of this story before and it is always very inspirational to me. I really liked the fact that you said we should focus less on the gender differences and focus on the broken system. This is the mindset that is needed if the system is ever going to be fixed. Malala’s courage and resilience in this story is unbelievable. She was shot in the head which to most people would be a sign that they need to stop whatever they are doing. She did not however. She recognized that the horrible system that is in place in many countries on the education of young girls needed to be fixed. She is a role model and leader to girls everywhere. Not just girls, I might add, to everyone everywhere. This attitude is what is needed to fix problems in this world. This attitude can be used across every profession, task, etc. Never backing down from your beliefs and never stopping standing up for those who are less fortunate than you. Malala is a leader and and inspiration for all.

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