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While educators may take heart and some good cheer from the declarations of support and admiration offered by Malala Yousafzai on her arrival in this country, it’s important to note that this young Pakistani student stands for far more than the importance of education, even in the face of deadly danger.
In early 2009, she began writing a blog for the BBC’s Urdu Web site under the pseudonym Gul Makai.
She was not the first choice for this project, but every other candidate had been withdrawn.
At the age of 11, with the support of her father Ziauddin Yousafzai, the project began, offering a window into the life of a girl child living under Taliban rule in the Swat Valley of Pakistan.
Despite that anonymity, Malala Yousafzai was already on record as questioning the restrictions on her schooling. In September 2008, she asked a local press club in Peshawar, “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?”
Her profile continued to rise after Archbishop Desmond Tutu nominated Yousafzai for the International Children's Peace Prize in October 2011. In December that year, she was awarded Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, who presented the award, promised an IT campus for the Swat Degree College for Women after the young activist requested it and a secondary school was renamed in her honour.
On October 9, 2012, she was shot with a handgun as she rode home on a bus after taking an exam.
Eight days later, Malala Yousafzai awoke from a medically induced coma at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, after life-saving surgeries at a military hospital in Peshawar.
The assassination attempt galvanized world attention and concern about the situation for children in Pakistan.
On October 15, 2012, while Ms Yousafzai was still in hospital, the United Nations began a petition to demand that there should be no child left out of school by 2015, that Pakistan should agree to a plan to deliver education to every child and that all nations should outlaw discrimination against girls.
Two million signatures later, the first Right to Education Bill in Pakistan was ratified.
The gunman has since been identified, but remains in hiding, along with the cleric who ordered the attack.
Pakistan officially condemns the incident and a group of 50 Islamic clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwa against her attackers, though Ms Yousafzai's security remains an issue.
Her continued commitment to a cause she began six years ago in the face of continuous threat offers a remarkable example to the youth of T&T who will find in this young girl the core of strength, determination and courage that others are all capable of if they are fearless enough to embrace their potential even as people and conditions seek to deny them that opportunity.
Malala Yousafzai’s decision to make a difference stands as an inspiration to all, whether they stand for a cause that seems impossible or seek to improve themselves in circumstances that work to constrain and limit them.
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