Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai in Birmingham, England, on Tuesday on her way to school for the first time since a Taliban gunman shot her in the head in October in Pakistan because she advocated education for girls
(Photo: Liz Cave, Malala Press Office/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON (Aisha Chowdhry, WUSA9) -- It started off as just another ordinary news day in Pakistan. Suicide bombings and violence creeps every corner of the country so it is not uncommon to see the red breaking news ticker flash on the television screens a lot.
I remember the day Malala Yousafzai got shot in October last year.
I was working for Reuters as a Correspondent based in the Islamabad office. A big part of my job was keeping a very close eye on local news. I re-call seeing the breaking news on every local TV station. As a reporter, my job was to see what it was, if it was newsworthy and what I needed to do from there.
But my heart sank when they announced her name on television, as they showed haunting images of the innocent girl's face in blood stained clothes. Her eyes were closed.
Malala is from Swat, an area that most Pakistani's remember for its beauty and tourism. Now, the area is associated with the Taliban. Many military operations have taken place in Swat over the years, leading to the displacement of many people. The operations have also inspired people like Malala, who blogged anonymously on her journey in Swat under the Taliban. She had always been on the Taliban's hit-list. There is nothing that her family could have done to protect themselves.
So, on a tragic day in October, a gunman entered the school bus Malala was taking home, asked for her and shot her in the head. He also shot and injured other girls on the bus.
The rest is a blur in the news world. Everyone has closely watched her recovery process from Swat to Peshawar to eventually, the United Kingdom.
Adam Ellick, a New York Times reporter, had filmed a documentary on her which I remember watching years ago with a box of Kleenex by my side, long before she came under the international spotlight.
It is rare for people to survive a targeted attack in Pakistan. Malala did. Not only did she survive but she is now the voice of education for millions of people around the world.
Today, on her 16th birthday she spoke in her first public speech at the United Nations in New York. Malala praised the efforts of the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon who proudly watched her speak.
She spoke with confidence, "My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same and my dreams are the same," she said. "I am not against anyone. Nor am I here to speak against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I am here to speak up for the right to education of every child."
Her family proudly watched as their young girl eloquently spoke to a crowd of nearly a thousand while wearing a 'shawl' that belonged to the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benzair Bhutto who was assassinated in 2007.
She reminds the audience that, "Malala Day is not my day. Today, is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights."
According to a report by UNESCO and Save the Children, the number of primary school age children not getting an education has decreased from 60 million in 2008 to 57 million in 2011.
Malala is determined to be the voice for those that do not have one. She has been praised by heads of states around the world and is in the running for a Nobel Peace Prize.
The Taliban actively threatened the media from reporting on Malala after shooting her. Somehow, their threats and attempts to silence everyone backfired, as Malala said herself at the United Nations today.
"They thought the bullet would silence us. But, they failed."
Written and Reported by Aisha Chowdhry