Some were thrust into the position, others attained the role through education or wealth, others through hardship. Either way, there are people the world over who have put their own lives at risk to stand-up for the rights of others. We don’t have to walk an identical path to them, but embracing their principles will make this world so much better for so many.

Malala Yousafzai

Growing-up in the beautiful Swat Valley of Pakistan, the Taliban forced girls out of schools; they did not believe that girls deserved an education. It was an edict Malala and her father fought against. When she was 12 years old, Malala wrote a blog for the BBC about life as a schoolgirl under the Taliban regime. At 13, the New York Times made a documentary about her, and by the time she was 14 years old she was both nominated for the International Childrens Peace Prize and awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize – as well as having a string of broadcasts, articles and speeches to her name. She stood up defiantly and told journalists “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” When she was 15, she was shot in the head by the militants whilst returning home on her school bus.

Her injuries were severe, and once stabilised, she was transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, UK where she was treated. She has now settled in Birmingham with her family where she attends Edgbaston High School for Girls. Malala continues to provide a strong voice for equality and education and now receives free public relations support and speech writing from the firm Edelmans. 

In October 2014, at 16 years old she was the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, though the decision was not without disapproval from some areas. Malala afterwards donated $50,000 to rebuilding of United Nations schools in Gaza. Much of her skills were developed by her father, a headmaster and poet who believes passionately in education. She has signed The Girl Declaration’-read it here:

Martin Luther King

Born in Atlanta, US  in 1929, he was raised an African-American Baptist. Highly influenced by Ghandi’s stance on non-violent protests,  he became one of America’s most influential civil rights activists, raising awareness of racial inequality which led to significant political change. His speeches focussed on moving forward and were free of hate which appealed to both black and white people. He was Time magazines’ ‘Man of the Year’ in 1963. His speech during a civil rights march in Washington became iconic;

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:  We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.  I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood”

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, donating the prize-winnings to the civil rights movement. On April 4th 1968, King was assassinated following his opposition to the Vietnam war. He was the catalyst for blacks in the US and around the world attaining equal rights.

Catherine Hamlin

Dr Catherine Hamlin AC founded the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and the Hamlin College of Midwives. After travelling to Ethiopia with her husband, Reg, in 1950 to train midwives, they were shocked by the plight of fistula sufferers. Many women in Africa have difficult labours, often made worse by female genital mutilation (FGM), this leaves them with horrific internal damage and often incontinent for life. They are rejected by society, their husbands leave them and they permanantly leak urine and smell.

Catherine and Reg worked at perfecting surgical techniques for obstetric fistulas – they treated over 40,000 women, with a 90%  cure rate. Catherine continues their work since Reg died in 1993. Catherine was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize in 1999 and 2014. Read more about her remarkable work here:

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