Few 16-year-olds can captivate an audience of more than 80 CEOs and their families on a rainy London Sunday morning, but activist and champion of education for girls, Malala Yousafzai, the youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, did just that in March 2014.
“I’m in a position where people want to listen to me, so you can ask me anything,” said Malala, who spoke confidently in spite of not having full vision and hearing difficulties on her left side.
Malala was only 15 when a Taliban gunman boarded her school bus in a small village in northwestern Pakistan, one of the most conservative regions in the country, and shot her and two other girls in retaliation for her outspoken campaign to stand up for girls’ education.
After a miraculous recovery, Malala now lives in Birmingham, U.K., and has become one of the world’s most admired children’s-rights advocates. She was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2013 and has set up a foundation to raise awareness of her cause.
Malala spoke not only about the situation in Pakistan but of the need for girls’ education in other places like Syria, where her fund is helping open schools for refugees. She also spoke about how privileged she feels to be able to attend a public school in Birmingham, something that she finds a lot of kids in the West take for granted.
Her father, a school teacher who greatly influenced her passion for education in spite of living in a society that prizes sons, reminded the audience that Malala is just a girl who got shot but there are many other girls who are as courageous and determined as she is.
YPO member Shahzad Ali was instrumental in getting Malala to participate in this event. “Here’s a 16-year-old coming from a remote village in Pakistan teaching us about courage, taking risk, commitment to a long term vision — all with a sense of purity and conviction,” he said.
After the event, Malala spoke with members and their families individually and signed copies of her book, I Am Malala.