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Malala Yousafzai's Character Traits and Personal Ethics

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Malala Yousafzai is an advocate for girls’ right to education, where at the age of only 11 years old she decided to speak on behalf of nearly 60 million children around the world who do not have the freedom to go to school. In 2008, Taliban militants enforced strict rules on the population in northwest Pakistan stopping women from shopping, as well as banning television, music and the education of girls. By the end of the year the Taliban had blown up nearly a hundred schools. In 2009, Malala had decided to blog anonymously for the BBC Urdu website on how educational restrictions were affecting female students. Malala’s blog entries appeared on the BBC and were reprinted in newspapers; she had also appeared in a documentary film and gave interviews in print and on television, where she has stated, “I have the right of education. I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. And I have the right to talk”. In October of 2012, a masked Taliban gunman boarded a bus and demanded that Malala step forward or he would shoot everyone. Malala ended up being shot at close range, but was kept alive and treated by doctors. The assassination attempt received worldwide attention and produced a wave of sympathy and anger. Since her recovery, Malala has received many awards and met with many world leaders to talk about a number of topics concerning women’s rights, but specifically aiming towards girls’ right to education. Malala has exemplified the virtues of fortitude, and justice through her endless amount of determination to give girls the freedom they deserve even when faced with difficulty and danger. She did not let the vicious acts of the Taliban discourage nor silence her; instead, she let it fuel her desire to commence change and create a world where education is a fundamental right for everyone. She showed and continues to show an astounding amount of courage and justice through her act to take initiative and to stand up and be the voice of 60 million children around the world who do not have the freedom to go to school, as well as continues to actively look for a solution to end gender discrimination and raise awareness of the limitations that girls experience on an everyday basis in some countries. Malala came close to identifying and achieving the standard, also known as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ ethics, which can be analyzed through philosophers Aristotle, Kant, and Levinas.

Aristotle was an Ancient Greek philosopher who explained rationality and how it leads to happiness. Rationality can be understood as thinking something through, or defined simply as prudence. Aristotle noted that rational thought must dictate our everyday actions and that rationally choosing good actions leads to developing a good character. Malala Yousafzai embodies a rational character as the decisions she made had a purpose to achieve an ultimate goal, which was focused on women’s rights. Ultimately, Malala chose the path that would benefit all as a whole. The many courageous acts Yousafzai performed, from voicing her beliefs about justice for women, to risking her own life in order to be heard proves the eagerness she had in order to stand up for all women. Instead of spreading hatred and seeking revenge against the Taliban, Malala aimed to end the violence and conflict that was inflicted, showing complete rationality and the existence of the cardinal virtue, prudence.

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Similarly, philosopher Immanuel Kant explained the need for freedom to be able to choose to do good. Kant’s ethics explain the concept of free will, where you ask yourself, ‘What should I do?’. He further explains that we must analyze and choose our decisions carefully and freely, making sure that they are good for everyone. Malala effortlessly displays free choice through her acts as she actively puts her own life at risk despite the consequences or opinions and beliefs of others, for example, during the assassination attempt by the Taliban. The risk Malala took to make a change was an act of free choice as she acted independently, even though her actions were against commonly held beliefs. It is not common for people to stand up for their beliefs and act fearlessly as Malala did through her writings, the shooting, and her speech at the UN. Malala Yousafzai formed her choices with freedom, acting with courage and selflessness. She stood up for herself, for her education and for her fundamental rights, as well as everyone else’s, and did not give up until she was heard despite the danger that came with it.

Philosopher Emmanuel Levinas described ‘The Face’ as a witness of the good. He stated, the face of others shows us the vulnerability and that each person is unique with a past and a story, thus allowing us to act good.

The Standard is unchanging, and is defined as ideals that are followed which ultimately guide our actions. Malala Yousafzai served many aspects of the Standard, ranging from compassion and sacredness of human life to freedom for all people. Malala predominantly aimed to serve the principle of equality as she shed light on the concept of gender discrimination and the fight for women to have equal rights. As an advocate for girls’ rights to education, Malala has shown immense dedication and passion in order to make a difference driven by her own personal ethics and values, revealing her strong beliefs in justice and equality. These standards have ultimately influenced and guided Yousafzai’s actions and accomplishments.

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Malala Yousafzai’s Character Traits and Personal Ethics. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 9, 2023, from
“Malala Yousafzai’s Character Traits and Personal Ethics.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
Malala Yousafzai’s Character Traits and Personal Ethics. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 9 Jun. 2023].
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