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Malala Is Spending her 21st Birthday Organizing with Indigenous Brazilian Girls

In the last year, women's rights and education activist Malala Yousafzai attended Oxford University, launched a digital publication, and traveled the world to fight gender discrimination and help girls go to school.
Photo courtesy of Luisa Dorr for Malala Fund

It’s been a year since women’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai celebrated her 20th birthday fighting for Iraqi girls' rights to education. Malala gained worldwide recognition (and a Nobel Peace Prize) after being shot by the Taliban in her hometown of Swat Valley, Pakistan for speaking out against atrocities limiting girls’ education, like gender-based violence and school-closing policies. After recovering, Malala became a global women’s advocate, writer, and activist, fighting for millions of girls around the world who are barred from education due to discrimination, poverty, child marriage, violence, rape, and war. Today, the activist turns 21 and continues her human rights work abroad and online, organizing with girls against racism, violence, and poverty. Here are some of her recent initiatives and media projects—and details on a new movie based on her life.


A Biopic About Malala’s Life, Gul Makai , Will Be Released This Year

A trailer was released today for Gul Makai, an upcoming biopic on the story of this “invincible activist,” as reported by the Times of India. The name comes from the heroine of a Pashtun folk tale and was the pseudonym Malala first wrote under when, at age 12, she started writing a BBC diary about her experience with girls’ education in Pakistan. Spanning from her home in Swat Valley, to a global stage in Oslo, Norway, the film chronicles Malala’s fight for freedom, power, and, ultimately, her continued dedication to the cause of women’s education. Directed by Amjad Khan and produced by Sanjay Singla and Preeti Vijay J, the film is scheduled for release by the end of the year.

Malala’s Annual Birthday Trip Brings Her to Brazil

According to a press release from The Malala Fund, Malala’s current visit to Brazil is part of a larger “annual birthday trip,” in which she travels to diverse communities, collaborating with local women’s rights groups.

This year, her first stop was in Salvador, Brazil, where she announced her $700k investment into three Brazilian “education activists who work with indigenous and Afro-Brazilian girls in the northeast of the country.” These three women were welcomed into The Gulmakai Network, The Malala Fund’s initiative to “support local educators and activists who work in countries where girls face the greatest barriers to education.” This investment grants these education activists the resources and support to make the necessary decisions for their unique communities. Malala also spent time (and practiced traditional drumming!) with the girls who are supported by her work.


On her next stop in Rio de Janeiro, Malala spent the day with girls from Rede Nami, “a graffiti organization based in a favela that encourages girls to speak out against racism, sexism, sexual violence through their street art.” She played soccer with girls from Street Child United, an organization that “uses football to support young people in Complexo da Penha.”

Today, Malala is spending her birthday speaking with girls from Na Ponta dos Pes, a dance school in Rio, then visiting a Samba school to learn about the history of the Brazilian Carnival and its legacies of colonialism and slavery.

Photo courtesy of Luisa Dorr for Malala Fund

"I am so grateful for the warm welcome I've received in Brazil,” Malala said in her press release. “I come from a country far away and very different and, at the same time, I feel at home here. Spending my 21st birthday exploring the beautiful culture and people of this country is a dream come true.”

Photo courtesy of Luisa Dorr for Malala Fund

The Launch of Assembly, Malala’s New Digital Newsletter and Online Magazine

This summer, Malala co-founded and launched Assembly , a digital newsletter and publication dedicated to telling the stories of girls around the world. In her pursuit of activism, Malala started out as a writer, blogging about girls education in Pakistan. Since, she has witnessed the profound impact storytelling can have for social change and justice. “I have met amazing girls from all around the world,” she says in the Assembly launch video. “They inspire me. And I know they will inspire you too.”


Assembly’s stories include Irish tech geniuses, Kittitian fashion icons, 13-year-old Tanya Muzinda, who is on her way to becoming Africa’s first female motocross star, amid the heavily male-dominated sport, and two Indian girls writing graphic novels about resisting child marriage and fervently pursuing an education. Many of the articles are written in different languages and can be translated to the reader’s native tongue. If you have a story to tell, Malala invites you to pitch and be featured in the next issue!

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Malala’s Dedication to Higher Education at Oxford

After graduating high school last summer, Malala wasted no time before diving deeper into her own education. She currently attends the University of Oxford, studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics. “And every day I fight to ensure all girls receive 12 years of free, safe, quality education,” her website reads.

Malala’s story is an unforgettable one; a reminder that standing your ground and speaking up—even in the darkest times—is what community, change, and progress is built upon. When accepting her Nobel Prize, she said, "I tell my story not because it is unique but because it is not," she said. "It is the story of many girls. Today, I tell their stories too.”