Commentary Human Rights

Thank You, Malala Yousafzai, for Inspiring Us to Activism

Emily Spangler

Although many activists are not threatened to the extent that Yousafzai was, it is important to remember that no matter where you come from, how old you are, or what your background is, your voice can have an impact on the world.

Emily Spangler is a 15-year-old high school student and one of Rewire‘s youth voices.

Being a teenager who wants to promote acceptance and equality and change the world is not necessarily easy. It can be quite stressful, especially when the world you see is not going in the direction you would like it to be going in. Still, raising your voice on certain issues is natural for some, like it is for me. I’m an advocate for empowering women to be engaged in the political process and to have their voices heard on issues that affect them. Someday, I want to make a bigger impact on this world and to be elected to public office. But I recognize that for others, activism not only requires courage and sacrifice, but can actually be dangerous.

Under the threat of violence—and even after surviving an assassination attempt—Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai continues to stand up for the rights of girls to education and equality. In so doing, Malala shows us that no matter what age we are or where we come from, we all have the power to use our voices for the issues we care about.

Thank you, Malala.

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On October 9, 2012, Yousafzai was shot in the head. The Taliban targeted her for spreading so-called Western ideas, most notably the right to education for women. Yousafzai survived the assassination attempt and, undaunted, continues to serve as an activist for the rights of women and girls. In the wake of the attack, global leaders have joined her in promoting and emphasizing the importance of access to education in Pakistan. For example, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown presented a petition to Pakistani President Zardari to ensure education for all.

Earlier this year, Yousafzai spoke before youth leaders at the United Nations and called for worldwide access to education for every girl. She was nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize and though she did not win, she became the youngest nominee ever.

At 16, Yousafzai is already an accomplished young woman and the world is looking forward to her next steps of activism and courage. Her story is unique, but she is also one of many activists around the world. She is a voice for many women in Pakistan, and her fearless actions have had an impact on the world. Her actions are a prime example of what raising your voice for an issue one is passionate about looks like. She has inspired others, including me, to raise their voices on issues that are near and dear to their hearts.

Although many activists are not threatened to the extent that Yousafzai was, it is important to remember that no matter where you come from, how old you are, or what your background is, your voice can have an impact on the world.

Back here in the United States, my generation has an advantage. When we want to raise our voices, modern technology is often available. No longer are we limited to writing to our local newspapers or giving speeches in our communities, because many of us also have access to social media websites, online news outlets, and forums where community speeches can go viral. It is easier now than ever to have our voices heard by a range of people around the world and for our messages to get across.

We can also host online discussions, which engage a broad audience, on websites like Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. We are capable of meeting other activists online and connecting with them. We have the world at our fingertips and keyboards, although we may not always realize it. There are so many different ways for our voices to be heard with the growth of online resources.

People of my generation: Your voice was given to you, and it should be put to use. By speaking out, we inspire others to have their voices heard as well. One can inspire a fellow peer, another activist, classmates, or a whole generation. Online or offline, your voice does matter.

Malala showed our generation that in order to have a sustainable future, we need to raise our voices. Issues in education, health care, the environment, and other areas are at stake unless we each take responsibility to create change. And thanks to Malala we know change is possible, even with the efforts of just one girl at a time.

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