By now, you've almost certainly heard of Malala Yousufzai, the 14 year-old Pakistani girl who was shot last week by Taliban assassins in retaliation for her outspoken defense of girls' and women's education. But if you haven't, gird your loins, because the story is like something out of those dystopian dramas we all like to read... only real, terrible, and infinitely more terrifying.
Since childhood, Malala had been a fierce advocate for her (and other girls') fundamental right to an education—a right that was being chipped away at and threatened by the creeping authority of the Taliban, whose ghastly restrictive laws forbid women from attending school, leaving their homes without full-body coverings, or speaking above a whisper in public. Malala was encouraged by her father to speak out on behalf of girls in Taliban-controlled areas, and began blogging under a pseudonym for the BBC, raising awareness of the challenges faced by girls in her city of Swat even as the area schools were shuttered and bombed. A year later, she chose to make her positions public and became one of Pakistan's boldest and most outspoken young activists on behalf of education and women's rights — activities she continued with increasing strength, and despite repeated threats and attempts to silence her voice.
But last week, the threats became a reality: on October 9th, a masked man boarded Malala's school bus, demanded that she identify herself, and shot her in the head.
Malala survived the attack and is being treated at a hospital in the UK, because in addition to being outrageously smart, articulate, and a nominee for the International Children's Peace Prize, she is also tough as nails and possibly some kind of superhero. We wish her a full and speedy recovery—and we hope you will, too! Because a girl who loves to read, loves to write, and wasn't afraid to say "Nuts to you!" to the group of cowardly creepmonster adults who threatened her right to an education is, among other things, clearly a Sparkler at heart.
What do you think of Malala's story? Do you have a message you'd like to leave for her in the comments?