Profile: Who is Malala Yousafzai?

FILE - In this undated file photo provided by Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, Malala Yousufzai reads a book.
FILE - In this undated file photo provided by Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, Malala Yousufzai reads a book.

The Pakistani teenager shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting education for girls will make her first public appearance at the United Nations.

On Friday, Malala Yousafzai will address more than 500 young leaders from around the world at a Youth Assembly.

The U.N. has declared July 12 – her 16th birthday – as “Malala Day.”

Malala returned to school in March after getting medical treatment in Britain.

Who is Malala Yousafzai?

Yousafzai was born in 1997 in the Swat district in northwestern Pakistan.

In 2009, at age 11, she began blogging for BBC Urdu under the pen name of Gul Makai.

Her blog posts chronicled life under Taliban rule in her hometown of Mingora. She playfully called the region “My Swat,” according to the BBC.

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By 2009, she made appearances on television and became a familiar face in the world of advocating for female education in troubled areas of the world.
Yousafzai’s courageous dispatches didn’t go unnoticed on the international stage.

In 2011, she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by The KidsRights Foundation, the BBC reports.

Within Pakistan, the government acknowledged her efforts with a National Peace Award – which is now called the National Malala Peace Prize. It’s given to candidates under 18 years old.

What did Yousafzai write about?

Her diary entries posted on BBC Urdu describe life under the Taliban regime, from facing death threats from militants to dealing with officials banning all girls from schools across the country.

Read her diary entries here.

“I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taliban. I have had such dreams since the launch of the military operation in Swat. I was afraid going to school because the Taliban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools. Only 11 students attended the class out of 27. The number decreased because of Taliban’s edict.

On my way from school to home I heard a man saying ‘I will kill you’. I hastened my pace… to my utter relief he was talking on his mobile and must have been threatening someone else over the phone,” she wrote in a January 3, 2009, posting on the BBC site.

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What happened on October 9, 2012?

A Taliban gunman shot Malala on Oct. 9 in northwestern Pakistan. The militant group said it targeted her because she promoted “Western thinking” and, through a blog, had been an outspoken critic of the Taliban’s opposition to educating girls.

The shooting sparked outrage in Pakistan and many other countries, and her story drew global attention to the struggle for women’s rights in Malala’s homeland. The teen even made the shortlist for Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” in 2012.

Malala was brought to the U.K. for treatment and spent several months in a hospital undergoing skull reconstruction and cochlear implant surgeries. She was released last month and has started attending school in Britain.

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