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Malala Yousafzai - Becoming an Adult

Malala Yousafzai - Becoming an Adult

Malala Yousafzai - Becoming an Adult

Instead of receiving an expensive birthday present or a giant chocolate cake, Malala Yousafzai did all the gift-giving to celebrate her 18th birthday this month as she opened a school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.  

Perhaps one of the world’s most famous teenagers and definitely the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate, Malala believes that her coming of age would best be marked by empowering other girls. After suffering a near fatal shot in the head by a member of the Taliban when she was just 15 years old on a bus ride from school in northern Pakistan, Yousafzai rose to global fame as a passionate voice for world peace and universal education. As a result, she vowed to fight for children’s rights.

The school for girls located in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border will teach over 200 girls from the age of 14 to 18. Funded by Yousafzai’s own nonprofit organization, the Malala Fund, the school will establish a “new curriculum [that] will enable students to receive their baccalaureate or vocational degrees through the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education or the Syrian equivalent”.

Facing the “heartbreaking tragedy” that is the world’s refugee crisis, Yousafzai writes on her fund’s blog that she is “honored to mark [her] 18th birthday with the brave and inspiring girls of Syria”. Today, Lebanon hosts about 1 million of Syria’s 4 million refugees. By the end of this year, the UN estimates that the number of Syrian refugees is expected to exceed 4.27 million in surrounding countries. “I think there’s no limit of age…to speak of children’s rights,” she said. As a result, “being here with the children in Lebanon, with the refugees, it makes my voice more powerful”, she told BBC from the school.

When asked why she chose to open the school in Lebanon, Malala explains to Reuters, “because I believe that the voices of the Syrian refugees need to be heard, and they have been ignored for so long”. Especially when “in Lebanon as well as in Jordan, an increasing number of refugees are being turned back at the border”, Malala explains, the school is a symbol of hope and courage more than ever.

The children’s “courage and dedication to continue their schooling in difficult conditions inspires people around the world and it is our duty to stand by them,” the Malala fund’s blog quotes. "On this day, I have a message for the leaders of this country, this region and the world — you are failing the Syrian people, especially Syria's children. This is a heartbreaking tragedy — the world's worst refugee crisis in decades."

Having experienced some of the worst of terrorism, war, and refugee crises, Malala shares her dreams with the world, and her desire to give a voice to those who  are consistently denied one. That, she believes, is what adulthood should represent. Speaking at the Oslo Summit on Education for Development just a few days before her birthday, Malala reminded the audience that “as an adult, you can be the voice of children”. “There is something that I have learnt from being a child that I will not leave behind and I will take on in to this new life of adulthood. And that is to dream: In fact, to dream big, to aim higher, without limit.”


Living in Durham, North Carolina, Cheryl is currently a junior in high school. She is completely in love with free expression through writing and has a wide range of opinions on various issues in popular culture, politics, and social topics.


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