This Day In History: October 10

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On October 10, 2014, activist Malala Yousafzai, age 17, wins the Nobel Peace Prize. A fierce advocate for girls' education, in her native Pakistan and around the world, she is the youngest-ever Nobel laureate.

Malala Yousafzai was in chemistry class when she learned she had won the Nobel Peace Prize. After hearing the news, she recalled, "I went to my physics class. I said, I have to finish my school day, because when you get the Nobel Peace Prize for education, you have to finish your school day."

Born in Pakistan's Swat Valley, at the feet of the Hindu Kush mountains, Malala grew up attending a girls’ school run by her father in their village of Mingora. Ziauddin Yousafzai, who grew up with five sisters, believed in the fundamental importance of education for girls. In a 2014 TEDtalk, he said of his daughter, "Don't ask me what I did, ask me what I did not do. I did not clip her wings."

In 2008, the Taliban seized control of the Swat valley. As part of a campaign to impose their vision of fundamentalist Islam, they violently shuttered schools for girls, bombing campuses and threatening teachers, parents and students. Undeterred, 11-year-old Malala went with her father to a local press club in Peshawar, where she gave her first public speech, entitled “How Dare the Taliban Take Away My Basic Right to Education?” She began to pseudonymously publish an online diary of her life under the Taliban with the BBC. After the Taliban was pushed out of the Swat Valley in 2009, Malala continued her public campaign to increase access to schooling for Pakistani girls.

On October 9, 2012, Taliban fighters boarded the bus the 15-year-old activist was riding home from school and shot her in the head at point blank range. The bullet grazed her skull and jawbone, but miraculously, she survived. Malala underwent emergency surgery, first in Pakistan, and then at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, U.K.

The assassination attempt shone a spotlight on Malala and her crusade, making her internationally famous. She spoke about her ordeal before the United Nations on July 12, 2013, saying, "They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed." She called on governments around the world to protect the rights of women and girls, and "to ensure free compulsory education for every child all over the world." That same year, she published the book I am Malala, which reached number three on the New York Times' nonfiction bestseller list, and she launched The Malala Fund, to support the cause for girls’ education. The fund's first grant went to support the schooling of 40 girls in the Swat Valley.

In 2014, when 17-year-old Malala became the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, she declared in her acceptace speech: "This award is not just for me. It is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change. I am here to stand up for their rights, to raise their voice… It is not time to pity them... It is time to take action so it becomes the last time, the last time, so it becomes the last time that we see a child deprived of education."

She has since graduated with a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University.