Today, on the first International Day of the Girl, there’s one person who is on our minds more than any other: Malala Yousafzai. If you’re unfamiliar, Yousafzai is a 14 year old student from the Swat District in Pakistan.

Barely a teenager, Yousafzai has been an outspoken advocate for women’s rights to education in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban has banned girls from going to school. When she was in seventh grade, she wrote a blog for BBC Urdu about the war on girls’ education. She has said that she has long known her life was in danger for her refusal to stand down in the face of this discrimination, but she refused to let fear stop her from speaking her mind.

On Tuesday, she was shot in the head on her school bus, and the Taliban claimed responsibility. This 14-year-old girl, who is in the hospital being treated for injuries which, at the time of writing, doctors are calling non-life-threatening, managed to shake the foundation of an entire regime with her resistance. She’s quoted in the Guardian as saying less than a year ago that even if the Taliban were to kill her, she’d still first tell them that what they were doing was wrong.

Plan Canada led a successful campaign entitled “Because I am a Girl,” leading the United Nations to declare Oct. 11th the International Day of the Girl Child. There are so many issues that this day encompasses, from education to safety to the right to survive, and we hope it promotes discussion and learning. And at the front of our minds will be Malala, a young woman whose bravery, spirit, and commitment to her cause should inspire all of us to stand up for ourselves, and our fellow girls.

~ Haley Cullingham