Three bullets to the head were supposed to stop her.
But education advocate Malala Yousafzai not only survived the attack, she went on to win global acclaim and, on Friday, graduate from one of the world’s top universities.
Eight years after being shot by the Pakistani Taliban, the advocate for female education and the world’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner shared a photo of herself smothered in cake as she celebrated her Philosophy, Politics and Economics degree from Britain’s Oxford University.
“Hard to express my joy and gratitude right now,” she wrote to her 3 million social media followers.
Yousafzai’s story captured the world when she was gunned down on her way home from school in 2012, aged just 15, in Pakistan’s Swat Valley area. She had come to the militants’ attention for speaking out in support of girls’ education, and was targeted on the bus home, which also saw two of her classmates severely injured.
Soon after, the schoolgirl and her family were airlifted to Birmingham, England, where she received treatment and rehabilitation for her life-threatening injuries. The family made the city home.
Yousafzai, 22, whose father was a teacher, became a global icon for girl’s education and has continued to champion the cause, traveling around the world from the White House to refugee camps, and campaigning for the right of girls to improve their minds and lives.
She graduated from Oxford’s Lady Margaret Hall college, which boasts a number of prominent alumni, including two current members of Britain’s political cabinet — Dominic Raab and Michael Gove — as well as Yousafzai’s idol, Pakistan’s first female prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Bhutto herself was gunned down on the campaign trail in Pakistan in December 2007.
While Yousafzai hasn’t said which profession she will enter, her “PPE” degree is seen as a launching pad into a political career. Commonly referred to as “the prime minister’s degree,” both Britain’s Boris Johnson and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan boast PPE degrees from Oxford.
Celebrities and politicians lined-up to offer their congratulations for her happy educational ending on Friday.
Children’s writer Philip Pullman and Turkish author Elif Shafak shared their well wishes online, as did Hollywood actresses Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling.
Like many young students during the coronavirus pandemic, formal graduation ceremonies have been cancelled or shifted online and Yousafzai remains at home with her family.
“I don’t know what’s ahead,” she wrote. “For now, it will be Netflix, reading and sleep.”