Malala Day is commemorated on July 12 each year to honor women and children’s rights around the world. July 12 is the birthday of Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani woman who was shot in the head on October 9, 2012, by Taliban gunmen after she publically advocated for the education of girls. Malala recovered from her injuries with even more determination to advocate for women’s education and empowerment. The United Nations (UN) proclaimed each July 12 as Malala Day to celebrate her courageous story and rousing speech to the UN Youth Assembly on her sixteenth birthday.
Malala was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, becoming the youngest Nobel Laureate at age 17. She has also been awarded the United Nations Human Rights Prize, The Liberty Medal, and declared one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential People of 2013. Malala continues to inspire women and children worldwide as a shinning light of heroism, hope, and activism for basic human rights, especially in places where young girls look to her as a role model for using education as a means to a brighter future.
Malala Day Timeline
Click the boxes to learn more about Malala’s story
- Born July 12, 1997 in Mingora, Swat Valley, Pakistan.
- Her name means “grief stricken.”
- Her father is Pakistani Educator and Activist Ziauddin Yousafzai.
- Her mother is Toorpekai Yousafzai.
- Asteroid 2010 ML48 was named after her and is now called “316201 Malala.” Asteroid Malala orbits the sun in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Malala’s Influence on Rotarian Peacebuilders
“I tell my story not beacuse it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls,” says Malala. “I speak not for myself but for those without voice… those who have fought for their rights… their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated.”
Malala’s words, and Malala Day, resonate deeply with Rotarians because Rotary was among a handful of organizations invited by the United States to consult in a 1945 San Francisco Conference leading to the UN’s Charter. This unique relationship between Rotary International (RI) and the UN will be celebrated in 2020 as the UN holds its 75th General Assembly on September 22, 2020. Rotary still enjoys the highest nongovernmental consultive status with the UN, and current RI President Mark Maloney will hold a series of RI Presidential Conferences in this Rotary year to commemorate Rotary’s historic legacy of promoting world peace and human rights in unison with the UN.
“Rotary shares the United Nations’ enduring commitment to a healthier, more peaceful, and more sustainable world,” says Maloney. “And Rotary offers something no other organization can match: an existing infrastructure that allows people from all over the world to connect in a spirit of service and peace and take meaningful action toward that goal.”
A great example of Rotary’s shared values with the UN is RI’s Peace Fellowship program that began in 2002. This groundbreaking peace-studies scholarship award has now graduated over 1,200 Rotary Peace Fellows who are working in NGO’s, nonprofit organizations, and even at the UN. Rotary Peace Fellow and Rotarian Action Group For Peace (RAGFP) Executive Director Reem Ghunaim was a student at the Duke/UNC Rotary Peace Center as Malala’s story unfolded with world-wide media attention. Reem attended Birzeit University located in Birzeit, West Bank, near Ramallah. Her Rotary Peace Fellowship brought her to the United States. Malala’s story inspired her to return to Palestine and promote education and positive peace to women and children in her own home country. Reem’s story was published by Rotary in 2018 and provides a perfect circle between Malala, the UN, RAGFP members and supporters, and Rotary International on Malala Day 2019.
Malala’s efforts to wage peace also encourage Rotarians in RAGFP’s Peacebuilder Club of Peshawar New City near the troubled Northwestern Afghanistan border. Peshawar is where Malala made her first public speech at age 11 in 2008. As reported in RAGFP’s June 2019 Newsletter, these Rotarian peacebuilders believe involving Rotaracts is key to peace in the region because young people, such as Malala, provide breakthroughs to generations of traditional conflicts without any sacrifice of deeply held formal values. Malala simply wanted to go to school. She spoke so loudly about the value of her education that her voice was heard around the entire world. And this is why the entire world, especially Rotarian peacebuilders, celebrates Malala Day.
Watch Malala’s Speech to the United Nations