She’s just 16, yet known worldwide — as the ultra-famous are — by a single name. She is Malala.
She has survived a Taliban assassin’s bullets. She awes global superstars and enthralls world leaders. She’s been showered with awards, almost won a Nobel Peace Prize and recently published a memoir. She might be the most famous teenager on the planet.
But no one comes from nothing. And Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani leading a global campaign for girls’ education and women’s rights, has, in addition to heroically supportive parents, a figurative godmother in her homeland who risks her own life in the same cause.
In fact, Asma Jahangir, a lawyer still fighting for human rights and equality for girls and women, has been doing it for decades.
At 61, Jahangir is a woman of gentle manner and razor-sharp mind, soft voice and steely will, a woman who sometimes laughs in spite of herself while recounting examples of the more absurd aspects of the ramshackle justice system in her turbulent homeland.
She is thrilled at Malala’s accomplishments. “She is absolutely inspiring,” Jahangir told the Star in an email. “Malala is a vindication of our struggle.”
Malala is the best-known of a new generation of young Pakistani women who want a fairer society, Jahangir says. And the women who have gone before to fight oppression “are all the proud mothers of our Malalas.”