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, 16, poses for a photo in London on October 3. She stared death in the face in 2012 when a Taliban gunman shot her in the head on her way home from school in Pakistan. Since then, she has become a global voice for girls' education in Pakistan. Malala Yousafzai, 16, poses for a photo in London on October 3. She stared death in the face in 2012 when a Taliban gunman shot her in the head on her way home from school in Pakistan. Since then, she has become a global voice for girls' education in Pakistan.
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
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 2129 GMT (0529 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1754 GMT (0154 HKT)
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
April 13, 2014 -- Updated 1856 GMT (0256 HKT)
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1906 GMT (0306 HKT)
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1649 GMT (0049 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1416 GMT (2216 HKT)
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
April 12, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1731 GMT (0131 HKT)
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 2128 GMT (0528 HKT)
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
Simon Tisdall: Has John Kerry's recent track record left Russia's wily leader ever more convinced of U.S. weakness?
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1640 GMT (0040 HKT)
Mel Robbins says Nate Scimio deserves credit for acting bravely in a frightening attack and shouldn't be criticized for posting a selfie afterward
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1839 GMT (0239 HKT)
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Dr. Mary Mulcahy says doctors who tell their patients the truth risk getting bad ratings from them
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says the married Rep. McAllister, caught on video making out with a staffer, won't get a pass from voters who elected him as a Christian conservative with family values
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1143 GMT (1943 HKT)
David Frum says the president has failed to react strongly to crises in Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, encouraging others to act out
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 2057 GMT (0457 HKT)
Eric Liu says Paul Ryan gets it very wrong: The U.S.'s problem is not a culture of poverty, it is a culture of wealth that is destroying the American value linking work and reward
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Frida Ghitis writes: "We are still seeing the world mostly through men's eyes. We are still hearing it explained to us mostly by men."
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Chester Wisniewski says the Heartbleed bug shows how we're all tangled together, relying on each other for Internet security
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1926 GMT (0326 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says an Ohio school that suspended a little kid for pointing his finger at another kid and pretending to shoot shows the growth in "zero tolerance" policies at school run amok
ADVERTISEMENT