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Diversity & Inclusion, Her-Story, Leaders

Her-Story: Some Birds Aren’t Meant To Be Caged (Malala Yousafzai)

I-am-MalalaWhile listening to National Public Radio (NPR) last week, the news of the day included the latest recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. This year’s award is shared jointly by Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”

Although I am not familiar with the work of Kailash Satyarthi, I along with countless others had heard of Malala Yousafzai – the young girl from Pakistan who developed a worldwide following for her fight against local Taliban rulers who were banning girls from attending school. Her message caught fire in 2009 after she wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the British Broadcasting Company (BBC).

She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013, and again in 2014. And this time, she won! At age 17, she is the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

“If I win Nobel Peace Prize, it would be a great opportunity for me, but if I don’t get it, it’s not important because my goal is not to get Nobel Peace Prize, my goal is to get peace and my goal is to see the education of every child.” Malala Yousafzai

Most of us have heard of Malala because of the attempt on her life by Taliban leaders. On October 9, 2012, as she boarded a school bus, a gunman fired three shots at her after asking her name. However, her story begins before then. She became an advocate for girls’ education as a child. This led to early death threats against Malala and her family.

Gravely injured with a gunshot wound to her head, her activism was temporarily derailed and her voice silenced by an assassin’s bullet. Shortly after the shooting incident, she was flown to England for intensive medical care and rehabilitation. While the local rulers thought that they had silenced this trouble maker in the Swat District of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the attempted assassination sparked international rebuke and an outpouring of support for Malala and her work on behalf of young females in Pakistan.

An international media outlet wrote that Malala may have become “the most famous teenager in the world. [Ref 1] As she lay in a hospital bed in England for weeks in a semi-comatose state, unable to speak, her voice silenced by a senseless act…the words didn’t come from her, but from a new storm that was brewing. A crescendo of voices rose out of the international community. United Nations (UN) Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, launched a UN 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 that helped lead to the ratification of Pakistan’s first Right to Education Bill. [Ref 2] 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.

As I continued listening to the stories of both newly minted Nobel Laureates, I began to smile. I was reminded of a line from the movie, The Shawshank Redemption:some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. There was something special and very unique about Malala that shined in the worst of times on this road that she seemed destined to travel. Although the Taliban rulers had temporary silenced her physical voice with a bullet to her head, her cause took on a voice of its own and has since grown globally and exponentially.

Although Kailash Satyarthi’s name is not as well known, his work is. He has also suffered backlashes, threats, and attempts on his life. Satyarthi has been put in threatening situations for disturbing a number of economic interest simply because he believes that children should be in school and not enslaved in child labor.

“I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. Still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend.”

Red, played by Morgan Freeman, in the Shawshank Redemption

Congratulations Malala! Congratulations are also extended to Kailash Satyarthi who shares this year’s Peace Prize with Malala and all other Nobel Prize winners for 2014.


  1. Biography of Malala Yousafzai,

http://www.ask.com/wiki/Malala_Yousafzai#cite_ref-brookings.edu_6-0   (site last visited on October 15, 2014).

  1. Bio – Malala Yousafzai, http://www.biography.com/people/malala-yousafzai-21362253#synopsis

About Vi Brown

Vi is principal and CEO of Prophecy Consulting Group, LLC, an Arizona firm that provides business and engineering services to private and public clients. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in 2001, Vi worked with Motorola, Maricopa County Government, Pacific Gas & Electric, CH2M Hill, and Procter & Gamble. As an adjunct faculty member, Vi teaches undergraduate calculus classes and graduate level environmental courses. She is also a professional speaker.



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