Malala Yousafzai (Pashto: ملاله یوسفزۍ; Urdu: ملالہ یوسف زئی; Malālah Yūsafzay) (b. July 12, 1997) is a Pakistani education activist from the town of Mingora in the Swat District of Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. She is known for her activism for rights to education and for women, especially in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. In early 2009, at the age of 11–12, Yousafzai wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC detailing her life under Taliban rule, their attempts to take control of the valley, and her views on promoting education for girls. The following summer, a New York Times documentary was filmed about her life as the Pakistani military intervened in the region, culminating in the Second Battle of Swat. Yousafzai rose in prominence, giving interviews in print and on television, and she was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize by South African activist Desmond Tutu.
On October 9, 2012, Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen while returning home on a school bus. In the days immediately following the attack, she remained unconscious and in critical condition, but later her condition improved enough for her to be sent to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, for intensive rehabilitation. On October 12, 2012, a group of 50 Islamic clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwā against those who tried to kill her, but the Taliban reiterated its intent to kill Yousafzai and her father.
The assassination attempt sparked a national and international outpouring of support for Yousafzai. The United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown launched a United Nations petition in Yousafzai's name, using the slogan "I am Malala" and demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015 – a petition which helped lead to the ratification of Pakistan's first Right to Education Bill. In the April 29, 2013 issue of Time magazine, Yousafzai was featured on the magazine's front cover and as one of "The 100 Most Influential People in the World". She was the winner of Pakistan's first National Youth Peace Prize and was nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize (which was awarded to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons). On July 12, 2013, Yousafzai spoke at the United Nations to call for worldwide access to education, and in September 2013 she officially opened the Library of Birmingham. Yousafzai was the recipient of the Sakharov Prize for 2013.
Yousafzai was born on July 12, 1997 into a Sunni Muslim family of Pashtun ethnicity. She was given her first name Malala (meaning "grief stricken") after Malalai of Maiwand, a famous Pashtun poet and warrior woman from southern Afghanistan. Her last name, Yousafzai, is that of a large Pashtun tribal confederation that is predominant in Pakistan's Swat Valley, where she grew up. At her house in Mingora, she lived with her two younger brothers, her parents, and two pet chickens.
Yousafzai was educated in large part by her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who was a poet, school owner, and an educational activist himself, running a chain of schools known as the Khushal Public School. She once stated to an interviewer that she would like to become a doctor, though later her father encouraged her to become a politician instead. Ziauddin referred to his daughter as something entirely special, permitting her to stay up at night and talk about politics after her two brothers had been sent to bed.
Yousafzai started speaking about education rights as early as September 2008, when her father took her to Peshawar to speak at the local press club. "How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?" Yousafzai asked her audience in a speech covered by newspapers and television channels throughout the region.