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For Pakistani schoolgirl Malala, education is everything

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot by the Taliban, brought her message to Boston Saturday night. 'Education is not Eastern, neither Western,' she says. 'Education is everything.'

By Contributor / October 13, 2013

Malala Yousafzai speaks to an audience during a discussion of her book, "I am Malala" at Boston College High School Saturday in Dorchester, Mass. The Pakistani teenager, an advocate for education for girls, survived a Taliban assassination attempt last year on her way home from school.

Jessica Rinaldi/AP

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Boston

Malala Yousafzai slipped unassumingly onto a make-shift stage, trailed by her father, and greeted with a crescendo of applause from the Boston audience.

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The sixteen-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl, who was shot on her way home from lessons just over a year ago on orders from the Taliban has become the spokesperson for the millions of children worldwide who are denied the opportunity for an education, and was even a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the week before she appeared in Boston, Malala had spoken before the United Nations, appeared on Jon Stewart (leaving the commentator speechless), and urged President Obama to wage war in Pakistan with books, rather than drones.

Throughout the evening, Malala spoke with the poise of someone twice her age, though small anecdotes– about her schoolyard rivalries, and love of the American TV show "Ugly Betty"– seemed to confirm that the human rights advocate is, in fact, a teenager.

A little over a year ago, Malala's name was not well-known outside of her native Swat Valley in the northwest corner of Pakistan.

Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, had come under scrutiny from the local Taliban for opening schools for both boys and girls, and the family worried that Mr. Yousafzai, like other teachers in the region, would become a casualty of Talib ire.

Though Malala had appeared on local media outlets as an advocate for girls' education, and had ghost-written a blog on education for the BBC Urdu service, harming the young girl would be an unimaginable – and unorthodox – act of violence.

But then, on Oct. 9, 2012, a young college-aged Talib boarded Malala's bus with a .45 Colt rifle in hand.

"Who is Malala?" he asked.

Wedged between two school friends in the back of the bus, her face exposed, Malala, answered the man: "I am Malala," and was met with a bullet. The then-fifteen-year-old girl had just finished her exams.

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