Skip to main content

Why Malala's bravery inspires us

By Julia Fine, Special to CNN
October 10, 2013 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
Malala Yousafzai poses on stage in Birmingham, England, after she was announced as <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/10/world/europe/nobel-peace-prize/index.html'>a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize</a> on Friday, October 10. Two years ago, the 17-year-old was shot in the head by the Taliban for her efforts to promote education for girls in Pakistan. Since then, after recovering from surgery, she has taken her campaign to the world stage. Malala Yousafzai poses on stage in Birmingham, England, after she was announced as a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, October 10. Two years ago, the 17-year-old was shot in the head by the Taliban for her efforts to promote education for girls in Pakistan. Since then, after recovering from surgery, she has taken her campaign to the world stage.
HIDE CAPTION
Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Julia Fine submitted the winning entry in a CNN contest about Malala Yousufzai
  • Fine: Malala, in her bravery, is a huge inspiration to her and so many other girls
  • She says Malala is a hero who brought attention to education and empowers kids
  • Watch Malala on "The Bravest Girl in the World" at 7 p.m. ET Sunday on CNN

Editor's note: Julia Fine, a senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda, Maryland, wrote this essay, which was chosen by Malala Yousafzai as the winning entry from among hundreds submitted in a contest conducted by CNN. Fine is co-president of the School Girls Unite club at her school and youth outreach coordinator for Day of the Girl. As the contest winner, she is traveling to New York to meet Malala, who will be interviewed Thursday evening by CNN's Christiane Amanpour for a special, "The Bravest Girl in the World," which will air Sunday at 7 p.m. ET.

(CNN) -- As a teenager, it's easy to feel lost, to get swallowed up into the mob mentality and lose your voice. We've all been victim to that; anyone who says they haven't is either lying or under the age of 13 years. And so when a teenage girl undertakes such an incredible task of courage, one adults cower in fear of doing, the event takes on utmost significance. This is exactly what Malala Yousafzai, a huge inspiration to me and so many other girls, did.

Malala stood up for herself, for her education and for her fundamental rights when confronted by a fearsome terrorist group. Malala has created a chain reaction all around the world, bringing change, light and hope to girls across all continents.

Being teenage girls in the United States, so many times, we forget the opportunities we have been given. We roll our eyes and joke about dropping out of school, a right we take for granted in this country. I don't know if I speak for all girls when I say this, but I know for me that after hearing about Malala's fight for education, I cannot take mine so lightly any longer.

Julia Fine
Julia Fine

I plan to continue my education so that I can fight for those who cannot. Malala has inspired me to study politics, gender studies, social justice and peace so that I am equipped with the tools I need to help others, the tools so many girls are not given.

Malala wins Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

But Malala has inspired more than just my own education; she has inspired my entire outlook and goals.

All Malala Yousafzai wanted was an education for herself and other young girls in Pakistan and despite threats from the Taliban, she continued to go to school. When it was clear that Malala wouldn't back down to increasing intimidation, the Taliban shot her in the head.
It's the story of the young girl that captured the hearts of so many across the world. But she is not alone. We meet five other female campaigners from across the globe. These are all inspirational young women who have overcome poverty and hardship and are passionate about giving something back to their communities. All Malala Yousafzai wanted was an education for herself and other young girls in Pakistan and despite threats from the Taliban, she continued to go to school. When it was clear that Malala wouldn't back down to increasing intimidation, the Taliban shot her in the head. It's the story of the young girl that captured the hearts of so many across the world. But she is not alone. We meet five other female campaigners from across the globe. These are all inspirational young women who have overcome poverty and hardship and are passionate about giving something back to their communities.
The world's 'other Malalas'
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
The world\'s \'other Malalas\' The world's 'other Malalas'

After I first learned of Malala, I couldn't stop thinking about her. Yes, I was more serious about my education and understood its importance now, but I wanted to become an activist and do something. I became co-president of my school's club School Girls Unite, a group that sponsors the education of 66 girls in Mali and lobbies Congress annually to increase foreign aid for education. I also became involved with the International Day of the Girl Child as the Day of the Girl U.S. youth outreach coordinator so I could speak to more girls about issues like education.

Girls defy the Taliban in Pakistan
Taliban pen letter to Malala

I have heard some people say that Malala is a mere poster child for Western ideals of education, but that could not be further from the truth; Malala is the hero who created the domino effect of change, bringing attention and empowering girls and boys alike to act on this issue.

Malala: Accolades, applause and a grim milestone

It may sound corny, but I assure you that it is true: I believe that Malala has changed the course of my life, and I only hope that through activism around the world, other girls will have their lives changed as well.

Thank you, Malala. Thank you for your bravery, your passion and your heroism. You inspire me and so many other girls so much, and what you do is incredible. You go, girl!

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Julia Fine.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 0102 GMT (0902 HKT)
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1851 GMT (0251 HKT)
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2207 GMT (0607 HKT)
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1329 GMT (2129 HKT)
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 0336 GMT (1136 HKT)
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1223 GMT (2023 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 0221 GMT (1021 HKT)
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1300 GMT (2100 HKT)
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 2033 GMT (0433 HKT)
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 0442 GMT (1242 HKT)
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 2043 GMT (0443 HKT)
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 0858 GMT (1658 HKT)
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 0407 GMT (1207 HKT)
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1653 GMT (0053 HKT)
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 2245 GMT (0645 HKT)
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1700 GMT (0100 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 2301 GMT (0701 HKT)
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1744 GMT (0144 HKT)
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1335 GMT (2135 HKT)
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 0208 GMT (1008 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 2004 GMT (0404 HKT)
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1307 GMT (2107 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 2250 GMT (0650 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
October 11, 2014 -- Updated 1543 GMT (2343 HKT)
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT