Inspiring Women: Malala Yousafzai

Blog post for Women’s History Month written by WriteGirl mentee Amanda, Age 16.

“They thought that the bullet would silence us, but they failed. The terrorists thought that they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life, except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”

If you aren’t acquainted with the speaker of these fiery words, the wise, 16-year-old Pakistani teen cloaked in vibrant hijabs and shawls of courage, then I am glad to introduce you. Malala Yousafzai, who, in 2012, was shot point blank in the head on her school bus by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education, was never weakened by the violent attack against her. If anything, the shooting empowered her.

As if surviving the altercation wasn’t astonishing enough, subsequently she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, wrote the book “I Am Malala,” and spoke about girls’ education at the United Nations. Dressed simply and always wearing a smile, she has spent extensive time at the refugee-flooded Syrian border with her organization, The Malala Fund. Her opulent voice has risen in interviews, newspapers, radio stations, and countless other mediums.

It wasn’t long until the news of this fearless girl reached my doorstep, in the form of my twin sister announcing to my family in the car that a Pakistani girl had been shot in the head. During the following week, I believed Malala to be dead, and mourned for this loss. But Malala not only survived—she lived, taking full advantage of the existence she had almost lost. Upon discovering that Malala was still alive from my sister later, and witnessing her photographs in TIME magazine listed as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, I was immeasurably strengthened by her voice of change.

As a poet, I have a vast appreciation for the human voice. But what attracts me, like dust to a moist countertop, is the voice’s call. As she shared her story with the world, it was as if she had perched herself, strong and unconquerable, on the beige rooftop above my apartment building and announced, “The time is now. Wake yourself. The time is now.” And, yes, how peacefully easy it was to blink my eyes open, and to follow her light, to walk towards the beacon teen who had illuminated the world, shining rays on both the shadows and the brilliance.

And at that moment I knew: if a tree falls, and no one is around to hear it, it does make a sound. The vibration of the timber races through the earth, jolting the insects who are just trying to enjoy a midsummer’s day. The rumble chases the birds, sending them flapping into a sheet of sky. This is why Malala has inspired me to soar towards my dreams, and to never be afraid of falling because of the faith I have in my journey, and most of all, in myself.

It all started with a voice. And who knows, it could end with mine, a call in the sky, a voice that will always make a sound.

Amanda was selected to be a youth delegate at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women this March. She is currently in New York working with other delegates towards the conference's goal: the advancement of women and girls all over the world.