By Taylor Long
Women's Foundation Girls Leadership Class Member
One year ago, I had just finished the final pages of Malala Yousafzai's book, "I am Malala." I immediately became enthralled with Malala's journey to fight for equal educational opportunities for women across the globe. Fast forward one year, I was asked by the Women's Foundation to represent the Girl's Leadership program in a small gathering with Malala herself. My initial reaction was pure excitement. However, what does one ask a 19-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner who has impacted the entire world with her story and passion for education? The pressure was immediately lifted when Malala entered the room, smiling and seeming like a normal teenager. Plus, she was sporting some adorable wedges which must come in handy for her petite frame! There were only fifteen teenagers in the room with her, aside from her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who sat right by her side.
The meeting with her felt less like a question and answer session, and more of a casual chat. She even discussed applying for colleges and how she keeps in touch with old friends. Of course, deeper topics were discussed. One of the most touching was when one of the young ladies in the room asked Malala about her relationship with her father. She described how thankful she was to have a father that didn't "clip her wings" but rather let her fly and experience education, unlike almost all of the other girls in her home country of Pakistan.
But the question I had on my mind was how Malala stayed so positive even after being shot in the head by the Taliban just for speaking her mind regarding equal educational opportunities for girls? When I asked her, she replied that she was tempted to stop fighting for her passion of seeing girls get an education but she said that she recognized she had an opportunity to share her message on a global scale because of this event. She explained how the messages sent to her during her recovery period kept her strong and gave her the strength to continue spreading her message.
You could feel the passion she had for education when she spoke and how her eyes lit up when she explained her dream of seeing every girl around the world go to school. Sitting down with Malala was such an amazing experience and it opened my eyes to how much girls in the United States take education for granted.