At Just 19, Malala Yousafzai Continues To Inspire

Most teens are generally looking forward to moving on to the next stages of their lives, whether it’s their first date, their first job, or their first car. When it comes to 19-year-old Malala Yousafzai, the one thing that people can count on is something out of the ordinary.

Malala, the youngest Nobel Prize winner in history, has demonstrated that while she does at times have the usual aspirations and goals of a teenager, she is someone completely exceptional. Ever since she was a young girl living in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, she longed for an education and began blogging anonymously around age 11, urging support for girls’ education, according to Washington Post.

Malala Yousafzai became something of a sensation, particularly as increased media attention meant that she was more in the public eye as she would travel to and from the Khushal Girls School and College that her father Ziauddin had founded. Ziauddin insisted on continuing to keep the school open in spite of threats by the Taliban. In October 2012, Malala was shot in the head while on a bus.

According to ABC13, shortly after Malala recovered from her near-fatal injuries, she came out stronger than ever in support of girls’ education.

“This is a second life, this is a new life,” she said in February 2013. “And I want to serve.”

Malala Yousafzai and her father had established The Malala Fund shortly after the attack, with its chief goal being the support of children’s education across the globe. Kansas City is looking forward to a discussion by both Malala and Ziauddin Yousafzai on July 19, according to Kansas City Star.

According to Washington Times, Malala Yousafzai also spent her 19th birthday in a most exceptional way, but one that was so in keeping with her goals. Malala visited the largest refugee camp, Dadaab, which is located in Kenya and may be dismantled in the coming year as it has become a security risk. The camp shares a border with Somalia, and there are some 300,000 refugees who are mostly Somalian in the confines of the camp, which has operated for nearly 25 years.

Malala said that every year, she visits an area in which education is neglected for girls and needs attention.

It was expected that Malala would be asked about the fate of Dadaab during her visit. Many of the residents have spent their entire lives in the camp. The problem, however, is there are claims that attacks on Kenya by al-Shabab, a Somali extremist group, are coming from within the camp. Al-Shabaab is also rumored to have links to al-Qaeda.

Reporter Saim Saeed has also written unfavorably of Malala Yousafzai, noting that the young Nobel Prize winner actually is viewed with derision by some.

“Some see her position as Western stooge only cemented; her well-wishers see her as a powerful force to both combat religious extremism as well as an advocate for women’s rights,” Saeed wrote, according to Washington Post.

For her part, though, Malala Yousafzai is still striving for normalcy in a life that is decidedly not normal. Though her family now lives in Britain – a decision they made to escape Taliban rule for their own safety – she still fights with her brothers and has noted a love of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. Even the day she was told she had won the Nobel Prize, Malala insisted on treating the day like any other; her chemistry teacher told her the news, and then she returned to class.

“I considered it as a normal day,” Malala said.

To be sure, while she might celebrate her birthday later with a cake, Malala Yousafzai definitely has an exceptional idea of what the word “normal” might mean. While she continues to further her cause of education for girls and for those who might be denied that right, Malala will hopefully still take the time to celebrate her 19th birthday.

(Photo by Matt Dunham – WPA Pool /Getty Images)