Originally posted on LinkedIn Influencers on October 14, 2014.
Last month, Women Moving Millions (WMM) held our annual summit in New York City. It was two action packed days of speakers, panels, discussions, and debate, all revolving around The Story of Power, which was this year’s theme. We were fortunate to have so many incredible speakers and guests in attendance, such as Pat Mitchell, Gloria Feldt, Demi Moore, Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess of Norway Mette-Marit. Michel Kimmel, Barbara Annis and Abigail Disney, but in particular, we were honoured to have Malala Yousafzai be a part of our event. Malala, as many people know, is an extraordinary teenager from Pakistan. She first made headlines around the world in October of 2012 when Taliban gunmen boarded her school bus and shot her in the head at the age of 15. She was targeted because of her advocacy for the right of children, and in particular young girls, to go to school, and the world at large was appalled by the horrific attempt on her life. Miraculously, Malala survived the attack, and in the two years since, she has spoken out for the educational rights of children around the world, set up the Malala Fund to help spur education initiatives, inspired a petition calling for every child in the world to be in school by 2015, released a book titled I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, and in July of 2013, she addressed the United Nations on her 16th birthday and called for universal worldwide access to education. Like I said, she is extraordinary.
Last week, in recognition of her efforts to support the educational rights of children, despite the dangers this advocacy poses, the Nobel Committee awarded Malala the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi of India. At 17, she is the youngest Nobel Peace Prize recipient in history, and only the second recipient from Pakistan, after Abdus Salam won in 1979 for Physics, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award. While it took incredible courage and bravery to speak out for girls’ education prior to the attack on her life, it is what she has done in the aftermath that most amazes me. Malala has taken the spotlight that has been thrust upon her and used it to advocate for the right of children to go to school around the world. She was given a platform to speak from, and she has made sure that her voice is being heard, all while remaining incredibly poised, articulate, and self-assured, and when she speaks, she speaks with a wisdom that is way beyond her years.
When I think of Malala and all that she has accomplished, I can’t help but think of what an incredible role model she is for young people around the world. Her story is proof that no matter what your age, you are never too young to take a stand and speak out for what you believe in, and it is my hope that when children and teenagers read about Malala’s journey to where she is today, they will realize that it is never too early to make a difference in this world. It is this inspiration, along with her numerous other accomplishments, that will be Malala’s legacy for decades to come.
With all of the honors, awards, and accolades, not to mention the numerous speaking engagements, appearances, and speeches, it is worth noting that Malala has remained a remarkably grounded teenager through it all, and despite her fame, she is certainly not neglecting her studies. In fact, Malala was not with us in person for the summit last month because she was back at school in England. Instead, she addressed us through a pre-recorded message that can be seen here ( and above) and Shiza Shahid, Executive Director of The Malala Fund addressed the group in person (pictured above). Additionally, it was reported that when news broke last week that Malala had won the Nobel Peace Prize, she had to be pulled from a Chemistry class to be given the good news. Something tells me that after securing a place in history, Malala went right back to her class and to the education that every child in the world deserves. If Malala has anything to say about it, that day will arrive sooner rather than later.