Magazine topic: 
Life around the world

Malala Yousafzai, welcome to Birmingham

by : 

I grew up on the edge of a big city in the middle of England called Birmingham. It’s an OK place. It’s not beautiful or anything like that. It’s got a complicated network of roads called ‘Spaghetti Junction’ (it looks like spaghetti) and a silver shopping centre called ‘The Bullring’ (it looks like a spaceship).  People don’t tend to visit Birmingham on daytrips: it’s not as impressive as London, and it’s not as pretty as Bath or Stratford-upon-Avon. But there is something special about the city – and that’s the people that live there. Birmingham is home to a lot of people with a lot of different backgrounds. You go into H&M and see girls with Irish backgrounds, or Pakistani backgrounds, or Indian or Chinese, all looking for a new outfit or a new piece of jewellery. You walk through the city at night and smell fish and chips, curry, Chinese food. You get on the bus and hear some people speaking English, and some speaking Urdu. Birmingham is home to all sorts. And now it’s home to one more. Her name is Malala Yousafzai. She’s fifteen years old, she comes from Pakistan, and – incredibly – she’s alive.

What was I like when I was fifteen? Boys, school, friends, books, clothes, music. It’s difficult to think of anything more specific than that. Was there anything bad – anything I was worried about? There must have been. Maybe it was my GCSEs? Maybe it was arguments with my parents? I now realise how lucky I am that nothing in particular stands out. And that I was worried about my school exams because I knew they were important. For Malala Yousafzai, school was something she had to worry about because she was banned from going there. For Malala, it won’t be hard to remember if anything drastic happened when she was fifteen – because that was the year she was shot in the head.

Malala Yousafzai grew up in Mingora in Pakistan. At the age of 11, she began blogging for the BBC (a British news and TV organisation). She wrote about what it was like to live in a place controlled by the Taliban. When Malala was writing, the Taliban were imposing strict rules on the place where she lived: they were banning TV and music, and – crucially for Malala – education for girls. In 2009, Malala was not a political activist; she was a girl talking about her life. She was a girl enjoying going to school, and facing the fact that her right to go to school would be taken away from her. In January that year she wrote: 'I was afraid going to school because the Taleban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools'.

Because she spoke openly about life under the Taliban, Malala became well known in Pakistan. The Taliban were angry about this, so, on the 9th October 2012, when she was on her way home from school, they shot her. Almost unbelievably, she survived. She was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham where doctors worked on repairing Malala’s skull.

Malala now lives in Birmingham with her family. She goes to school ten miles away from where I went to school. She has won various awards for her efforts to defend education for girls in Pakistan. I want to say to her: Malala Yousafzai, welcome to Birmingham. I hope you’ll be safe here. I hope you’ll enjoy your new school. I hope you’ll get the education you deserve to have. And I hope you change the world. But I also hope you get the chance to be a teenager for a bit. In January 2009, you wrote 'we were told not to wear colourful clothes as the Taleban would object to it'. In Birmingham, I hope you get to wear all the colourful clothes you like.


What do you think of Malala's story? How would you feel if you were banned from going to school?


Lorriee's picture
Lorriee 5 April, 2014 - 14:27

I wish I was that smart at the age of her. I am a bit older but she is a wonderful role model for us. This story is harrowing. I have to change the meaning of life, justice, loyalty and fidelity.

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justcricketforme's picture
justcricketforme 20 October, 2013 - 14:14

Malala stood up and rose the voce of the girls of the Northern Areas against Taliban to let them learn and get educated. She stood against the attacks and demolishings of the schools for women. Taliban are against education for women. And then what happend with her,we all know. I feel sorry for her and proud of her as a girl and a Pakistani. Welldone, Malala!

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Bosnianchild's picture
Bosnianchild 29 August, 2013 - 10:23

I know that in Pakistan situation is horrible,especially for children.They need a real childhood because in the future they will be great human.Not just Malala,all children deserve life.I enjoyed in Malala story.She is learning that we must be thankful for everything.
Form 1992-1995 in my country was War.My mother said it was horrible experience.Expelling,murdering,torturing,rapping that was their every day.NEVER FORGOT SREBRENICA!

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Natalija's picture
Natalija 17 July, 2013 - 20:43

I think that Malala should be a role model for all girls of the world, not just for the ones without an opportunity to study, but also for those who are afraid of doing something. She has shown the world that if we want something, we can get it, in spite of all the obstacles and problems we find in our way. She is so brave, so intelligent and I can tell just the superlatives for her. I admire her, the whole world admires her, because there is only one girl of her kind, only one who stood up and told NO to Taliban, who didn't let them to prevent her in her mission. She is a real life example that if we want, we can move mountains and rivers. At first she had no chances to survive, she was just one more in the Pakistan crowd, but she knew she wanted more from life than just simply surviving. She wanted to become a successful and educated young girl, without any fears, which she became. I admire her for her bravery and strength, for her desire to reach all her goals. She is more than a girl, less than a woman, but definitely a person, a teen, who gave a huge contribution to her community at that age. She is Emmeline Pankhurst of 21st century, and I think she should win the Nobel Prize for peace, because she deserved it. Taliban tried to kill her, they shot her, but they couldn't shout her mouth, because we are girls and our voice must be heard, I see Malala as a politician or a leader one day, one of the most powerful women in the world. I wish there were more girls like her, I wish that all the girls in Pakistan and in countries like it, follow Malala's steps and contribute to that improvement she had started. She did a great job, she is still doing it, but if others don\t wake up and finally stand up for their rights, her fight may last for a little. All the girls, all the women of the world must fight for their rights, must be aware how powerful women actually are. We can change the world, we can make it a better place for life, I am sure. Malala has shown me some new aspects of life. When I just think about how sad and angry I was when I could't buy that latest Louis Vuitton handbag or go to New York, I realise how stupid I actually was. There are more important things in the world than wearing brand clothes. It is education. Who would we be without it? Nothing. Just the dull creatures, without any higher aim in the life, without anything to stream for.I will cite Malala and say that only one book, one pencil, one teacher and one student can change everything. She said that a few days ago, at her birthday, in the UN. She is the voice of all the girls in her country. I am so happy she finally found happiness in England and that she can get the education now. I was so sad when I heard last year that Taliban shut her. I though she would die and I felt so discouraged. But later on, when she was saved, I felt such a relief, because I knew that she will continue her work and won't let anyone stop her. I can just imagine how hard it was to feel frightened every time you went home from school, for Taliban could kill you. Her life wasn't easy at all, it was so tough, but she struggles with it. She is a real fighter. Luckily, i have never experienced that kind of life, but I read a lot of books about it. For example, Haled Hosseini's books. His first book, The Kite Runner, was so hard to read, I had terrible dreams after that, but it helped me to realise how life is so hard in some parts of the world, in Afghanistan, in this case. People struggle with poverty, lack of education and they are always scared for their lives. I appreciate education the most and starting from this moment, I will never feel vain or unhappy about anything. Life is beautiful, it really is, just we have to find its beauty. I am so happy for living in Serbia, a free country, and for having the chance to get a good education, to study and to improve myself. I cannot even imagine how it would be like if I were banned from school. It would be such a disaster, and I think that I would fight for my rights, just as Malala did. I would feel so sad and so discouraged, but I would find a strength to fight for myself. It is so hard to believe that there are some parts of the world where you can't go to school, and I want to change it so desperately. I would do anything to give my own contribution, and that every kid, no matter what country he come from or what gender he is, can get the knowledge, because it is the biggest treasure. We must appreciate it and do everything to use it in the best way. Malala, well done. You are an amazing girl, and you are doing a great job, Just continue in that way and don't let anyone to stop you. We girls are proud of you.
I am so looking forward to read her book which will be published in the September, and since we both want to study law at the University of Oxford, I hope to meet her one day, to tell her this and maybe to become her friend.

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Monisa's picture
Monisa 2 November, 2014 - 18:23

I appreciate your writing! I wonder how you afford to write such long comments! I really don't have much time to write so long!!!

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Azerigirl's picture
Azerigirl 17 July, 2013 - 08:39

We are the same age with Malala. United Nations declares July 12 as Malala day.It is so good idea. HAPPY BIRTHDAY AND PEACE FOR MALALA

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Amigo110's picture
Amigo110 17 July, 2013 - 05:33

Malala is a legend..A brave girl teenager fights for her rights..Hope the best things to her..
Thank Jennifer O'Hagan for giving us a story about brave girl and ur peace city Birmingham which city i've just known by yours football club.

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onedirectionlover2002's picture
onedirectionlov... 19 May, 2013 - 08:57

She's from my country, proud of her! A role modle for girls who are forced by Taliban not to go to school. She gave a message to fight for your rights.

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MALINE's picture
MALINE 14 April, 2013 - 00:16

It shows us that we have to fight for our rights and to stay truth to ourserlves,I´m really proud of her and I hope that all we have her courage when something bad happen to us.

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Demy's picture
Demy 10 April, 2013 - 17:34

I enjoyed reading this story... I am very glad, that Malala despite all the problems she had, she survived. If really I proud of her, because not every girl in her age is so smart and brave. And I also hope Malala get the chance to be a teenager for a bit, because she had so difficult life.
Thank you very much, Jennifer O'Hagan, for this story. It's what unforgetable for me....

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