Malala Yousufzai, the Noble Prize Winner and an education activist, officially graduated from the prestigious Oxford University through a virtual convocation ceremony.
“Like all of you, I am also missing my graduation ceremony this year”Malala Yousufzai
Although the current pandemic has denied a lot of students the opportunity to ascend the stage and collect their graduation certificate in-person, it does not mean that their proud moment of achievement should not be celebrated.
Malala was a part of the star-studded YouTube streamline, Dear Class of 2020, that was dedicated to support and encourage students graduating this year. The popular YouTube lineup was joined by many celebrities and influencers like Barak and Michelle Obama, Bill Gates, Beyoncé, Malala and K-Pop.
As part of the virtual graduation ceremony, Malala delivered a speech and spoke about the challenges she faced in the last few months in completing her degree due to the unprecedented lock-down that was strictly imposed in the wake of COVID-19.
“When I pictured my last few months at Oxford, I saw myself studying in the library, working day and night, revising, and in the end celebrating our achievements with my friends, but right now I’m stuck in my house, trying to study while my brothers interrupt me and annoy me”.Malala Yousufzai
However, at the same time, Malala reminded us to remain steadfast and positive in these unfortunate times, and to not let the crisis and sorrows define our abilities and achievements.
She shared: “Don’t be defined by what you lose in this crisis but by how you respond to it…You have gained your education, now it’s time that you go out and use it for the betterment of the world. Congratulations to the class of 2020.”
Born in Swat, Pakistan, Malala was fond of going to school while her father ran a girls’ school in their village. In her community, she was a vocal proponent of girls being allowed to attend school. In October 2012, Malala, at the age of 15, was shot in the head on her school bus by the Taliban- a conservative extremist group that condemns the education of girls and are violent in their activities.
She was taken to a hospital in Birmingham where she received proper care and medication and was later joined by her family who permanently shifted to Birmingham. In 2018, she pursued a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University.
Malala Transformed a Misfortune into a Movement
After the tragic incident, Malala began her fight for children’s rights and continues to champion the right of girls’ education. Malala Fund, a charity dedicated to girls fighting poverty, gender discrimination, and child marriage, was also established with the help of her father. After 6 years under strict security and protocol, she made her first emotional visit to Pakistan since the Taliban attack.
In Pakistan, Malala Fund has built several schools and trains young women to speak up for their rights. In other developing countries like Nigeria, Brazil, and India, it continues to provide support for free education of girls and advocacy. In recognition of her efforts, Malala, at the age of 17, became the youngest person to win the Noble Prize winner in 2014.
She also became the youngest-ever United Nations Messenger of Peace in 2017.
In a country like Pakistan where millions of girls are deprived of schooling and are bound within the four walls of their house – much of which is due to strict gender norms, violence by extremist groups in conflict-ridden areas, feudalism, insufficient funds, and a plethora of other reasons, Malala serves as a role model and an inspiration for many young girls. Following her ordeal, she has become a global icon.
Although at home, her reputation is reviled by some due to the controversies surrounding her role as foreign propaganda, but I believe that Malala is a pride for Pakistan. We should be proud of her for being an ambassador of our nation and for championing a cause that our government still struggles with.
Hiba Shoaib is a student of social development and policy at Habib University. She is currently working as an Undergraduate Research Fellow at Center for Transdisciplinary Design and Innovation Lab. As an aspiring policy-practitioner, she aims to address socio-economic concerns. She uses her research and critical-writing skills to empower people and advocate for social justice.