Young Heroes

Malala Yousafzai

by Nitya Yerabandi from San Diego, California in United States

"When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful."

- Malala Yousafzai

134070Malala Yousafzai at Women of the World Festival in 2014“In today's culture, from rock stars to movie stars, from sports stars to politicians we have substituted celebrities for heroes. Celebrities from whom we expect little and sometimes get less” (Harper). In the article “How Should We Choose Our Heroes,” Charles Harper explains that we as modern day society idolize celebrities, which can misguide our values and beliefs and set us on a false path to obtain fame and money. However, heroism is much more than just the glory and appreciation. It is the ability to rise from an ordinary status in society, with nothing but the desire to make a difference in the lives of others. A hero never seeks recognition, but acquires it due to their impact on society. Nowadays, our perception of a worthy hero has been polluted with fame and appearance. We label the successful, the wealthy, and the famous as heroes. However, to me, a hero is much more than just that. The teacher who jumped in front of her students during the Connecticut shooting is a hero. The man who collected money, food, and clothing every week to donate to the homeless is a hero. The 343 firefighters who dashed into the Twin Towers on 9/11 are heroes. Someone who is worthy of this title values the concept of sacrifice and commits selfless actions to better the future of others. A genuine hero empathizes with disadvantaged people and devotes his or her time to alleviating their struggles. By uplifting the lives of others around them and working to enrich humanity, deserving heroes inspire society by creating a ripple effect of kindness and generosity.

134074Malala Yousafzai receives the Sakharov human rights prize at a ceremony in Strasbourg having the traits selflessness and compassion, Malala Yousafzai is one of the heroes who matches this criteria. Instead of using her powerful voice and hard work for selfish purposes, she utilized them to promote the betterment of society. Malala Yousafzai is a human rights activists, who predominantly campaigns for the right of education for girls. She was born on July 12, 1997, in Swat Valley, Pakistan into a family who strongly valued the importance of education. Growing up in a friendly learning environment, Yousafzai parents always encouraged her to pursue her passion for education. However, this all changed when the Taliban, a violent extremist group who opposed the right of education for girls, entered her town in 2009. The Taliban started meddling with the town policies when they demanded that all girl schools were to be shut down. The struggles that Yousafzai and her family faced under the Taliban encouraged her to speak out and bring awareness to everyone. She took advantage of the attention she was gaining and began to commit to even more projects, interviews, and speeches that addressed the issue that the Taliban were creating. However, as she became more well known, they started to consider her a threat, and eventually decided to take action against her. On October 9, 2012, a Taliban member shot Yousafzai and two other girls when they were riding on a school bus on the way home. Due to severe injuries, she was transported to Birmingham, England a week later. After a few months of perseverance through surgeries, treatment, and therapy, Yousafzai was in normal condition again. Despite this attack, Yousafzai continued to preach for education even more passionately. Except this time, she had a much larger audience. On July 12, 2013 she spoke at the UN in New York, where she addressed the global issue of education among all children. Afterwards, on October 10, 2014, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her courageous actions and persistent attempts to educate all children. Throughout her journey for the fight for education, Yousafzai accumulated many self-sacrificing moments, by putting her life at risk for the well being of other girls. She showcased her empathy and understanding for the deprived children when she valued their needs as her own concerns and persevered to better their future. Her usage of these traits illustrates her influence on society and the explanation behind her accomplishments at such an early age. Due to her selfless actions to ameliorate the lives of uneducated girls and her compassionate nature towards the underprivileged, Malala Yousafzai epitomizes a true hero who aspires only for the welfare of others, making her worthy of her honorable status in society.

By sacrificing her own well being to create a better future for the uneducated girls, Yousafzai demonstrates the selflessness of a true hero. Journalist Robert Jones includes on his website that despite the Taliban’s efforts to stop Yousafzai, she would not quit speaking out for her mission for education of all children: “The Taliban published death threats in local newspapers that specifically mentioned Malala by name. She was even threatened on her Facebook page, causing her to delete her personal account. However, she refused to stop speaking out and vowed to keep fighting for the rights of ALL children to an education” (Jones, Her refusal to let the Taliban stop her from speaking out displays her selflessness by showing that the education of others is more important to her than her welfare. Her resilience towards her campaign even after being threatened demonstrates that she is willing to sacrifice her own well being if it means that the future of underprivileged girls will improve. She embodies the definition of a hero by embracing the concept of sacrifice and selflessly utilizing it to make a difference in the lives of others. As a result of continuously campaigning for the rights of girls, Yousafzai received several death threats from the Taliban. She became slightly concerned about her safety and began contemplating what she would do if a terrorist approached her on the way home: “It would be better to plead, ‘OK, shoot me, but first listen to me. What you are doing is wrong. I’m not against you personally, I just want every girl to go to school’” (Yousafzai 6). Instead of thinking about running or cowering in fear, Yousafzai planned a speech. Her speech showed her courage because she wanted the Taliban to know their suppression of women was wrong. In her thoughts, Yousafzai’s ability to put the well being of others first represents a value that only reputable heroes possess: altruism. By deciding in advance to give more importance to her mission than her life, she demonstrates selflessness to sacrifice her life for the better future of all girls, thus characterizing her as a heroic figure.

134066Malala Yousafzai at the White House visiting Former President Obama’s empathy for children suffering from poverty motivated her to improve their inadequate lifestyle. After Yousafzai is devastated by seeing an uneducated girl her age sorting through the trash at the dumpster, she comes home with grief and tells her father to do something: “‘Aba, you must give them free places at your school,’ I begged. He laughed. My mother and I had already persuaded him to give free places to a number of girls” (Yousafzai 81). Because of her youth, Yousafzai does not have the power to help others herself, but she still begs her father to give the children at the dumpster a free education, which shows her compassion for uneducated children. Because of her parents’ support towards education, Yousafzai learned the significance of school from an early age. This enabled her to understand the dreadful condition of the children at the dumpster and show her empathy by providing them with free education. Yousafzai's understanding enhanced the lifestyle of the many deprived children she gave free seats to. Her concern about the future of these children demonstrates her ability to feel their discomfort, which elevates her above society as an epitome of a compassionate hero. After her tragedy, Yousafzai gained a platform worldwide, which gave her the power to help others. Journalist Robert Jones also describes on his website one of the organizations that Yousafzai established to support the purpose of her mission of education for all children: “In 2013, she founded the Malala Fund, a nonprofit organization entirely dedicated to helping girls around the world gain access to education. Through this nonprofit, Malala has been able to directly fund the education of underprivileged girls in numerous countries, including Pakistan, Nigeria, Kenya” (Jones, By founding an organization that helps over 130 million girls go to school, Yousafzai is demonstrating her empathy for illiterate girls who suffer from poverty. Her value of education enabled her to understand the necessity of education for these poor girls. As a result, she shows her compassion for them by using her position and voice to establish this organization and help disadvantaged children receive an education. Yousafzai does not just have empathy for the underprivileged, but she also founded an organization to take action and help others. Heroes do not just have feelings; they act to alleviate the struggles of others. Therefore, Yousafzai’s ability to not only feel the discomfort of others, but also take her compassion beyond the average person by giving back to the community is what makes her a true hero.

Through her selfless attempts to educate all children and her empathetic vision on the lifestyle of the uneducated, Yousafzai demonstrates the qualities of a virtuous hero who inspires society. Despite the death threats she received, her courage to sacrifice her well being by opposing the Taliban for the education of girls exemplifies her selflessness and risks that she was willing to take for others. Yousafzai’s ability to put the necessities of others before herself showcases her heroic traits and illustrates the values and ideals that every worthy hero possesses. She displayed her empathy for the underprivileged by understanding their dreadful situation and persevering to enhance their lifestyle. Her compassionate actions to eradicate illiteracy among children portrays her understanding of the uneducated and thus proves her as a living embodiment of benevolence. Although her altruistic and empathetic behavior comprises her heroic personality, Yousafzai’s aspiration for the betterment of humanity is what truly differentiates her from the common citizens and is what makes her an inspiration to me, as well as the world: “In my heart I had only the desire to help people. It wasn’t about the awards or the money. I always prayed to God, ‘I want to help people and please help me to do that’” (Yousafzai, 301). All she ever wanted was for every deprived child to receive an education, like she had, so that they would experience a better future. Her truthful intentions behind her courageous actions are why I consider Malala Yousafzai a hero. Coming from India, where education among poor children is still an issue today, Yousafzai has had a huge impact on my world. Currently in India, due to severe poverty in villages, child labor and child marriage are followed because families can not afford to send their children to school. As an Indian girl, I feel privileged to receive a fine education and to be surrounded by a friendly learning environment. However, if Yousafzai had stopped with the fact that she was privileged to have parents who supported education, millions of girls worldwide would not be living a better life today. After seeing Yousafzai ignore her own benefits to improve the future of others, I am inspired to do the same as well. Her actions encouraged me to join the club Education in Action, where I tutor kids from middle school and promote the fun of learning. In addition to that, she motivated me to take action against the illiteracy among poor children who are hindered from receiving a better life. I plan to do this by donating money to the organization Child International, which funds the education of children facing poverty in India, as well as other countries. Yousafzai’s fight for education has taught me that when we aspire to make a difference in the lives of others, nothing can stop us. No matter what, we will always find a way to overcome our obstacles. With that desire alone, one can change the world.

Works Cited

“Malala Fund | Working for a World Where All Girls Can Learn and Lead.” Malala Fund | Working for a World Where All Girls Can Learn and Lead,

Yousafzai, Malala, and Christina Lamb. I Am Malala the Girl Who Stood up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. W. Ross MacDonald School Resource Services Library, 2017.

Jones, Robert. “MALALA YOUSAFZAI - HERO OF UNIVERSAL EDUCATION.” Infinite Fire, 13 Oct. 2017,

Page created on 5/21/2019 2:01:39 AM

Last edited 9/9/2019 9:17:14 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

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Girls can change the world - but we have to invest in them first - In this article, Malala Yousafzai discusses the motivation behind her inspiring actions, as well as the importance of educating all girls.

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