Our Hero: Malala Yousafzai

Malala, Zooey Magazine As advocates of education and self expression, here at Zooey we stand with and are completely inspired by the courage of 16-year-old Nobel Peace Prize nominee and author, Malala Yousafzai. This activist faced death last year at the hands of the Taliban when she stood for what she believed in - which was a girl’s right to education in the middle east.

But we had to beg the question, what about the youth today? How do we stir up a movement of young ladies to ignite change in the world rather than revel in the banality of social media? Below are six reasons to rally for education and self expression for all.

1. Education allows us to be in and apart of the world around us. Tuning out is extremely easy. In our country, we are afforded the luxury to do so. Yet with modern avenues that allow global voices to be heard, we have the ability to act. Once we feel impacted, it becomes hard to turn the other cheek. We stay on our toes by being in-the-know and no one can take that away from you. And by being educated, we have the skills to interpret, analyze, and act.

2. Education provides solutions. The amount of exposure we have to unfamiliar situations shapes the way we solve problems in own lives. When exposed to new cultural norms or perhaps fields of study outside of our own, we have options when deciding the best way to handle a situation. We understand justice, acceptance, and respect. Education provides the freedom to choose, and to choose wisely.

3. Education creates community. Of course there are general education curriculums that vary from school-to-school, but on a social level, schooling counts as our first introduction to societal and structural norms. The experience isn’t just to learn about school subjects. Basic communication, life and judicial skills are instilled early on through education.

4. Why would you wait for someone to speak for you? Nobody knows you better than you do. You have to speak for yourself. We loved Malala’s response in her recent interview with Jon Stewart as to why she decided not to continue her education “underground” in SWAT and spoke out instead the system. She replied, ” Why should I wait for someone else? Why don’t I raise my voice . . . why don’t we speak out for our rights? I need the world to know what is happening.” Wise woman.

5. Never let them tell you that you can’t dance. Self-expression is the enemy of manipulation. As one can only achieve as much as they allow themselves to, she who holds steadfast to a positive view of herself will accomplish more. Among that, originality is best. It’s easy to appreciate authenticity - we do so without even realizing it.

6. Age ain’t nothing but a number. Malala began this journey at age 11 and at 16 is teaching the world to be brave. Being unafraid of limitations imposed by an oppressor (whether it be societal norms, a group of people, etc.) is a free trait available for all humans to use. All we have to do is use it.

Find out more about Malala’s mission by visiting the Malala Fund. Her story was documented as a film by Adam B. Ellick.

Photo by Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images Written by Porsha Thomas