Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai

Born 12 July 1997

At barely 20 years old, Malala is already known around the world for her bravery and her advocacy of education for girls. Malala is the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate and has inspired millions of people worldwide.

As a young girl living in Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan, Malala and her father, who ran a school, were passionate about providing education for all. As young as twelve years old, Malala became an activist, working with BBC Urdu to write a blog about daily life under the Taliban.

At a time where women were being prevented from going shopping and where television and music were outlawed, Malala and her father continued to speak up. Hundreds of girls’ schools were blown up and a ban on girls going to school was put in place in 2009.

By 2011, at only fourteen years old, Malala had gained international recognition thanks to work with the BBC, a documentary about her, and her public campaigning. She then received Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize. This is when Taliban voters agreed to have her killed as she was too popular and influential.

In October 2012, Malala was on the bus to school when she was attacked: she was shot once, with the bullet going through her head, neck and shoulder. Thankfully, Malala survived and was brought to the UK for medical treatment, with her family soon following. The murder attempt prompted international outrage and saw an outpouring of support for Malala.

In Pakistan, protests were held against the shooting and the events also brought about the Right to Education Bill, after more than two million people signed a petition.

Now that she is fully recovered, Malala travels the world fighting for girls to have the right to education, she has started the Malala Fund, wrote a best-selling book, and inspires people wherever she goes.

Read her book ‘I am Malala’

Aitzaz Hasan

1997 – 7 January 2014

Hasan sadly died young, but did so in an amazing act of bravery. When he realised a suicide bomber was en route to his school, where there were some two thousand students in attendance. Hasan, who was an excellent student and strongly involved in extracurricular activities, gave up his life to protect them.

The events unfolded in Ibrahimzai, in Hangu, Pakistan. Hasan and his friends noticed a man wearing a detonator headed for the school. Despite his friends warning him not to, Hasan went to speak to the bomber and ultimately, it is reported, hugged him. Hasan was the only casualty that day as a result.

Hasan’s bravery inspired millions, with the hashtags #onemillionaitzaz and #AitzazBraveheart trending as people encouraged each other to similarly stand up to violence and terror. Hundreds of mourners attended his funeral to pay respects for the sacrifice he made.

Iqbal Masih

1983 – 16 April 1995

Masih was born to a poor family just outside Lahore in Maridke. His desperate mother took out a loan in Masih’s name from a local employer who ran a carpet weaving business and was unable to pay it back.

With the interest constantly increasing on the loan, Masih was sent, aged just four, to work as a carpet weaver to pay off the debt. Child labourers were highly valued in the Pakistani carpet industry because their tiny fingers allow them to make small, tight knots, resulting in high quality carpets.

However, this is not reflected in their pay, with Masih working twelve hours a day, every day, with only a half hour break, all for only one rupee a day. Masih was also chained down to stop him from escaping, but he did manage to flee at the age of 10. However, he was returned to his hometown and his work by police.

Masih managed to escape his labour again and attend a school for former child slaves. He became an advocate for other child slaves, campaigning to end the practice in Pakistan where some six million boys and girls are similarly employed in bonded labour. Often families are so poor they have no choice but to send their children into this virtual slavery.

In 1994 Masih received the Reebok Human Rights Award. He returned to Pakistan to attend school with the hopes of becoming a lawyer, so that he could help others in a similar predicament. Sadly, he was killed at age twelve while riding home on his bicycle. The official report stated that the killing was an accident, though some disagree and cite the Carpet Manufacture Mafia as being behind it.

Arfa Kareem

2 February 1995 – 14 January 2012

Arfa Kareem was the world’s youngest Microsoft professional at the age of nine. When her father bought her a computer as a child so that she could send emails, little did he know what a technical whizz Kareem would become.

To become a Microsoft Certified Professional, individuals need to display technical proficiency in a number of areas including .Net and Windows Server 2003. Becoming qualified meant Kareem got to visit Bill Gates himself, who praised her highly.

Few people in the world have qualified at such a young age, and Kareem was determined to go into a career in technology, with dreams of studying at Harvard.

In an incredibly sad turn, Kareem suffered a cardiac arrest in 2012 at the age of sixteen while studying for her A Levels in Lahore. While she received the best of medical care, she passed away shortly after.

Aisha Esbhani

Thirteen years old

When a twelve-year old Esbhani realised that most of the books on her shelf were by North American and British authors, she knew something had to change. It was then that this avid young reader decided to set herself a challenge: to read a book from every country on the world.

A true child of the digital age, Esbhani reached out over Facebook asking for recommendations. The Facebook page quickly caught in with people recommending – and sending – books from all over the world.

Now aged thirteen, Esbhani has read books from eighty countries, far more than the average teenager but still a long way off her target of 197.

Esbhani is a truly inspiring figure: despite being a shy child, her challenge has helped her grow in confidence, and her passion for literature has been infectious for other children.

Do you want to help your children become curious, empathetic and inspiring?

Check out our fantastic children’s stock:

  • Wonder by R.J palacio
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  • The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech
  • Jill and the Dragon by Lesley Barnes
  • If Dogs Run Free by Bob Dylan
  • Slug Needs a Hug! by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
  • Mr Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown