Raise Your Voice - Human Rights Activists Malala Yousafzai and Xiuhtezcatl Martinez | Teen Ink

Raise Your Voice - Human Rights Activists Malala Yousafzai and Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

August 26, 2022
By ASoldierOfHalla SILVER, Collierville, Tennessee
ASoldierOfHalla SILVER, Collierville, Tennessee
7 articles 3 photos 13 comments

Favorite Quote:
“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” - Malala Yousafzai

Raise Your Voice

How do you think change is made in our world? You might think that it takes very specific things and many powerful people, but in reality, change can be made by anyone of any age, gender, race, and in different ways. This is shown by activists Malala Yousafzai and Xiuhtezcatl Martinez. Malala Yousafzai is a young woman from Pakistan who spoke up for women’s education rights. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is a young man who used music as a way of climate change activism. Both of these young people used their voices to spark change. Whether it be through speech or music, they both fought for what they believed in and never gave up. They found something they could do that could help people, and eventually became incredible activists who led great change. They prove that change can be made in many ways and everyone can make a difference.

Malala Yousafzai is a young woman who used her voice to fight for what she believes in. Born in Swat Valley, Pakistan, Malala grew up being told that women’s place in society was in the home and kitchen. Despite this, Malala defied traditional expectations of women. She went to school and got an education, which she believes is crucial and a right that everyone should have. Unfortunately, others around her did not. Throughout her life, there had been an Islamic law enforcement group emerging in her home. They were called the Taliban, and they used violence to essentially carry out their own laws, many of which limiting women’s rights, such as their right to education. Despite this, Malala constantly used her voice to speak out against the Taliban. She gave speeches and protested, drawing more attention to her situation from around the world. She appeared on television numerous times and even blogged for the BBC. The Taliban feared the change she could make, so in 2012, they shot her while she was riding a school bus. Miraculously, Malala survived, now stronger than ever. An attempt to silence Malala’s words for change ended up amplifying her message louder than ever. She is now a world symbol of women’s and education rights. Even after coming close to death, she shows immense courage and continues to speak for what she believes in.  

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is a young man who uses his voice to fight for the future of the world. Raised in the traditions of the Indiginous Mexica people, Xiuhtezcatl had a strong connection with nature. But growing up in the modern world, he quickly realized the damage being done to the environment. He saw climate change affecting his home and local communities. He wanted to stop it. So, at the age of six, he began his work as a climate activist. He advocated alongside his family, who had started the climate change organization, Earth Guardians. He gave speeches and protested at numerous rallies. He won many awards and even gave a speech to the United Nations at age 15. Also, from a very young age, he loved music. He saw music and realized it could be an outlet to empower people. So as an extent of activism, Xiuhtezcatl began writing and performing songs about climate change at rallies. He used his voice in music to inspire and bring change. He became an influential figure in the climate movement, and is now known for his hip-hop based activism. He is now the youth director of Earth Guardians and continues to perform and advocate today. 

All in all, Malala Yousafzai and Xiuhtezcatl Martinez are young activists who use their voices to fight for what they believe in. Through music and speech, Xiuhtezcatl and Malala have lifted their visions and changed the world. They are both examples of what can be accomplished when a mind is set to something, and both show that change can be made in different ways. Even though they were young, they saw injustice in their world and stood up to make things better. They prove humanity will always fight for what they think is right and use their talents to do so. They are also examples of the world improving because of people making a difference. 



Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is a brave girl who always used her voice to stand up for what she believed. She was born on July 12, 1997, in Mingora, Swat Valley, Pakistan (Blumberg, “Malala Yousafzai | Biography, Nobel Prize, & Facts"). She grew up in Pakistan, a country that does not treat women with equal rights to men (Yousafzai, and McCormick 11-24). Women were expected to cook and clean for husbands, and would rarely be educated or taken seriously. Despite this, her family was very fond and supportive of her. Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, specifically, never treated her differently because she was a girl. In fact, he defied most traditional standards when it came to the treatment of women. Unlike most families who would be disappointed at having a daughter, he was joyous. He wrote her name in the family tree, which had not included a woman in centuries. He named Malala after a Pashtun folk heroine Malalai, who rallied the army with her strong words and led them to a victory, being killed in the process (Guggenheim). Her father was also a large advocate for education rights (Yousafzai, and McCormick 11-24). He owned and acted as the principal at a school that taught girls. Malala grew up around an activist, and in turn became very outspoken and confident in her beliefs. She thought that girls should be treated fairly and be allowed to be educated. She believed education was the key to the future and that everyone deserved it. As a toddler, she would lecture in empty classrooms at her father’s school (Guggenheim). She always had a strong voice and wanted to be a part of things (Yousafzai, and McCormick 11-24). For example, her father would often have other men over, talking about politics, and she would sit with them. She always used her voice and stood up for what she believed in, even though it almost cost her life. 



From a very young age, Malala was outspoken (Guggenheim). Whether it was lecturing empty classrooms in her father’s school or listening to her father speak about politics with other men, Malala was always observing and finding ways to grow and express her beliefs. Growing up in a house with an accepting social activist in place where women were discouraged from asserting their personality, Malala was not the typical Pakistani teenager as she grew her voice and confidence as an activist (Blumberg, “Malala Yousafzai | Biography, Nobel Prize, & Facts").

Malala loved going to school (Yousafzai, and McCormick 25-28). School was a place where she felt free (Yousafzai, and McCormick 29-36). Where she lived, it was unusual for girls to be educated, but that did not stop her (Yousafzai, and McCormick 25-28). She went to her father’s school, trying her hardest to get the best grades and be the smartest. She was a bright student who worked diligently and made the most of her education. However, she soon realized how fortunate she was to have received an education, and what people’s lives were like without it.

When she was little, Malala watched a television show called Shaka Laka Boom Boom, where a boy was given a magic pencil that could make anything he drew come to life (Yousafzai, and McCormick 25-28). After seeing this, she prayed to God every night, asking for a magic pencil so she could make the world a better place. One day, while she was throwing the trash out, she saw children about her age at the dump. They were sorting through the trash for things to sell to support their families. She realized that this is what her life could be like if she did not go to school. When she went home that night, instead of a magic pencil, she prayed for God to give her the strength and courage to make the world a better place. 

Around this time, the Taliban began making moves to gain control of the area she lived, Swat (Blumberg, “Malala Yousafzai | Biography, Nobel Prize, & Facts"). The Taliban are an Islamic law enforcement group, who shut down or destroyed anything that they deemed “Un-Islamic”. This included women’s schools and taking away women’s rights . Malala was religious from a young age and knew this was not the way God wanted women to be treated (Yousafzai, and McCormick 29-36). Her father fought against the Taliban for the rights of these schools and all women, by giving speeches and protesting. Even though the Taliban were making threats and killing lots of protestors who stood in their way, her father was courageous and did not stop. His work inspired her to take up activism, and soon her father took her to a local press club in Peshawar. There she gave her first speech, “How Dare the Taliban Take Away My Basic Right to Education?” at age 11 (Blumberg, “Malala Yousafzai | Biography, Nobel Prize, & Facts"). It was shown throughout Pakistan. Also at that age, she made a public appearance with her father in the New York Times short film called, “A Schoolgirl’s Odyssey”. This would start her on her path to becoming a great activist. 


Taliban Takeover ‌

The‌ ‌Tehrik-e-Taliban‌ ‌Pakistan,‌ ‌or‌ ‌the‌ ‌Pakistani‌ ‌Taliban,‌ ‌are‌ ‌a‌ ‌group‌ ‌of‌ ‌men‌ ‌imposing‌ ‌strict‌ ‌

Islamic‌ ‌law‌ ‌throughout‌ ‌Pakistan‌ ‌(Blumberg,‌ ‌“Malala‌ ‌Yousafzai‌ ‌|‌ ‌Biography,‌ ‌Nobel‌ ‌Prize,‌ ‌&‌ ‌

Facts").‌ ‌The‌ ‌laws‌ ‌included‌ ‌not‌ ‌letting‌ ‌girls‌ ‌go‌ ‌to‌ ‌school,‌ ‌making‌ ‌women‌ ‌wear‌ ‌a‌ ‌burqa‌ ‌at‌ ‌all‌ ‌

times,‌ ‌only‌ ‌letting‌ ‌women‌ ‌leave‌ ‌the‌ ‌house‌ ‌with‌ ‌a‌ ‌man,‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌other‌ ‌things‌ ‌that‌ ‌limited‌ ‌

women’s‌ ‌rights.‌ ‌They‌ ‌also‌ ‌did not‌ ‌allow‌ ‌things‌ ‌like‌ ‌music‌ ‌and‌ ‌electronic‌ ‌stores,‌ ‌and‌ ‌would‌ ‌often‌ ‌

burn‌ ‌or‌ ‌bomb‌ ‌them‌ ‌(Guggenheim).‌ ‌The‌ ‌Taliban‌ ‌sought‌ ‌to‌ ‌establish‌ ‌strict‌ ‌Islamic‌ ‌law‌ ‌throughout‌ ‌

the‌ ‌country.‌ ‌


‌ One‌ ‌day,‌ ‌there‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌serious‌ ‌earthquake‌ ‌(Yousafzai,‌ ‌and‌ ‌McCormick‌ ‌29-36).‌ ‌The‌ ‌TNSM,‌ ‌

another‌ ‌Islamic‌ ‌law‌ ‌enforcement‌ ‌group‌ ‌similar‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌Taliban,‌ ‌and‌ ‌military‌ ‌came‌ ‌to‌ ‌help‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌

damage‌ ‌it‌ ‌had‌ ‌caused.‌ ‌The‌ ‌TNSM‌ ‌announced‌ ‌that‌ ‌it‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌warning‌ ‌from‌ ‌God,‌ ‌and‌ ‌if‌ ‌the‌ ‌country‌ ‌

did‌ ‌not‌ ‌mend‌ ‌its‌ ‌ways‌ ‌by‌ ‌going‌ ‌back‌ ‌to‌ ‌strict‌ ‌Islamic‌ ‌law,‌ ‌God‌ ‌would‌ ‌punish‌ ‌them‌ ‌again.‌ ‌Malala‌ ‌

herself‌ ‌knew‌ ‌that‌ ‌an‌ ‌earthquake‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌natural‌ ‌event‌ ‌(Yousafzai,‌ ‌and‌ ‌McCormick‌ ‌39-41).‌ ‌But‌ ‌

most‌ ‌women,‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌lot‌ ‌of‌ ‌people‌ ‌in‌ ‌Swat,‌ ‌were‌ ‌not‌ ‌educated,‌ ‌and‌ ‌believed‌ ‌what‌ ‌the‌ ‌Taliban‌ ‌said.‌ ‌


A‌ ‌man‌ ‌who‌ ‌went‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌name‌ ‌of‌ ‌“Radio‌ ‌Mullah”‌ ‌started‌ ‌giving‌ ‌radio‌ ‌sermons,‌ ‌warning‌ ‌everyone‌ ‌not‌ ‌to‌ ‌do‌ ‌“Un-Islamic”‌ ‌things‌ ‌in‌ ‌order‌ ‌to‌ ‌keep‌ ‌God‌ ‌from‌ ‌sending‌ ‌another‌ ‌earthquake‌ ‌(Yousafzai,‌ ‌and‌ ‌McCormick‌ ‌39-41).‌ ‌He‌ ‌talked‌ ‌of‌ ‌bringing‌ ‌back‌ ‌strict‌ ‌Islamic‌ ‌law.‌ ‌There‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌large‌ ‌number‌ ‌who‌ ‌agreed‌ ‌with‌ ‌him,‌ ‌and‌ ‌his‌ ‌following‌ ‌grew.‌ ‌It‌ ‌was‌ ‌soon‌ ‌revealed‌ ‌that‌ ‌Radio‌ ‌Mullah‌ ‌was‌ ‌Maulana‌ ‌Fazlullah,‌ ‌a‌ ‌leader‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌TNSM.‌ ‌Fazlullah‌ ‌started‌ ‌speaking‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌radio‌ ‌about‌ ‌the‌ ‌people‌ ‌who‌ ‌opposed‌ ‌him,‌ ‌listing‌ ‌their‌ ‌names.‌ ‌He‌ ‌started‌ ‌making‌ ‌threats,‌ ‌and‌ ‌he‌ ‌was‌ ‌increasing‌ ‌in‌ ‌followers‌ ‌(Yousafzai,‌ ‌and‌ ‌McCormick‌ ‌43-51).‌  ‌He‌ ‌joined‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌Taliban‌ ‌and‌ ‌started‌ ‌enforcing‌ ‌Islamic‌ ‌law.‌ ‌He‌ ‌deemed‌ ‌women’s‌ ‌schools‌ ‌haram,‌ ‌or‌ ‌forbidden‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌holy‌ ‌Quran.‌ ‌He‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌Taliban‌ ‌shut‌ ‌down‌ ‌music‌ ‌and‌ ‌electronic‌ ‌stores,‌ ‌as‌ ‌those‌ ‌were‌ ‌also‌ ‌deemed‌ ‌un-Islamic,‌ ‌and‌ ‌

began‌ ‌publicly‌ ‌whipping‌ ‌and‌ ‌killing‌ ‌their‌ ‌opposers.‌ ‌Malala’s‌ ‌father‌ ‌would‌ ‌often‌ ‌be‌ ‌out‌ ‌speaking‌ ‌

about‌ ‌the‌ ‌Taliban.‌ ‌This‌ ‌worried‌ ‌her,‌ ‌as‌ ‌he‌ ‌and‌ ‌his‌ ‌school‌ ‌had‌ ‌gotten‌ ‌threats‌ ‌for‌ ‌being‌ ‌un-Islamic‌ ‌

and‌ ‌there‌ ‌had‌ ‌once‌ ‌been‌ ‌a‌ ‌note‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌gate‌ ‌from‌ ‌the‌ ‌Taliban‌ ‌threatening‌ ‌him‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌school.‌ ‌

With‌ ‌the‌ ‌Taliban‌ ‌rampaging,‌ ‌there‌ ‌were not‌ ‌many‌ ‌people‌ ‌defying‌ ‌them.‌ ‌And‌ ‌those‌ ‌who‌ ‌did‌ ‌were‌ ‌at‌ ‌

serious‌ ‌risk‌ ‌(Yousafzai,‌ ‌and‌ ‌McCormick‌ ‌52-65).‌ ‌


The‌ ‌students‌ ‌at‌ ‌Malala’s‌ ‌school‌ ‌started‌ ‌wearing‌ ‌different‌ ‌uniforms‌ ‌because‌ ‌the‌ ‌Taliban‌ ‌had‌ ‌

deemed‌ ‌their‌ ‌old‌ ‌ones‌ ‌un-Islamic,‌ ‌and‌ ‌they‌ ‌were‌ ‌too‌ ‌scared‌ ‌to‌ ‌refuse‌ ‌(Yousafzai,‌ ‌and‌ ‌

McCormick‌ ‌52-65).‌ ‌During‌ ‌the‌ ‌rise‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌Taliban,‌ ‌Pakistan’s‌ ‌female‌ ‌prime‌ ‌minister,‌ ‌Benazir‌ ‌

Bhutto,‌ ‌returned‌ ‌from‌ ‌exile.‌ ‌She‌ ‌had‌ ‌been‌ ‌an‌ ‌advocate‌ ‌for‌ ‌girls‌ ‌rights,‌ ‌and‌ ‌was‌ ‌assassinated‌ ‌by‌ ‌

the‌ ‌Taliban‌ ‌shortly‌ ‌after‌ ‌arrival.‌ ‌This‌ ‌was‌ ‌frightening,‌ ‌and‌ ‌people‌ ‌soon‌ ‌realized‌ ‌that‌ ‌the‌ ‌Taliban‌ ‌

would‌ ‌stoop‌ ‌so‌ ‌low‌ ‌as‌ ‌to‌ ‌kill‌ ‌women.‌ ‌After‌ ‌this‌ ‌reign‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌Taliban‌ ‌went‌ ‌on‌ ‌for‌ ‌a‌ ‌while,‌ ‌the‌ ‌army‌ ‌

finally‌ ‌stepped‌ ‌in.‌ ‌The‌ ‌army‌ ‌and‌ ‌Taliban‌ ‌fought‌ ‌at‌ ‌night,‌ ‌with‌ ‌bombs‌ ‌and‌ ‌guns,‌ ‌for‌ ‌a‌ ‌year‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌

half.‌ ‌Malala‌ ‌was‌ ‌scared‌ ‌every‌ ‌night‌ ‌as‌ ‌she‌ ‌heard‌ ‌bombs‌ ‌nearby‌ ‌her,‌ ‌and‌ ‌she‌ ‌left‌ ‌for‌ ‌school‌ ‌the‌ ‌

next‌ ‌morning‌ ‌to‌ ‌see‌ ‌more‌ ‌buildings,‌ ‌shops,‌ ‌and‌ ‌schools‌ ‌destroyed.‌ ‌The‌ ‌Taliban‌ ‌began‌ ‌enacting‌ ‌

targeted‌ ‌killings,‌ ‌assassinating‌ ‌anyone‌ ‌who‌ ‌defied‌ ‌them.‌ ‌People‌ ‌lived‌ ‌in‌ ‌fear‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌Taliban.‌ ‌

Malala‌ ‌was‌ ‌scared‌ ‌for‌ ‌her‌ ‌family,‌ ‌her‌ ‌father,‌ ‌and‌ ‌her‌ ‌school.‌ ‌ ‌


The‌ ‌Taliban‌ ‌became‌ ‌bolder,‌ ‌acting‌ ‌as‌ ‌the‌ ‌police,‌ ‌walking‌ ‌around‌ ‌with‌ ‌sticks‌ ‌and‌ ‌guns‌ ‌to‌ ‌punish‌ ‌anyone‌ ‌who‌ ‌did‌ ‌not‌ ‌follow‌ ‌the‌ ‌rules‌ ‌(Yousafzai,‌ ‌and‌ ‌McCormick‌ ‌92-113).‌ ‌Once,‌ ‌Malala’s‌ ‌mother‌ ‌went‌ ‌into‌ ‌the‌ ‌market‌ ‌without‌ ‌a‌ ‌“proper”‌ ‌burqa,‌ ‌that‌ ‌covered‌ ‌her‌ ‌entire‌ ‌face‌ ‌with‌ ‌just‌ ‌a‌ ‌little‌ ‌veil‌ ‌to‌ ‌see‌ ‌through.‌ ‌A‌ ‌Taliban‌ ‌member‌ ‌threatened‌ ‌her‌ ‌with‌ ‌his‌ ‌gun‌ ‌if‌ ‌she‌ ‌did not‌ ‌wear‌ ‌it‌ ‌next‌ ‌time.‌ ‌The‌ ‌people‌ ‌were‌ ‌already‌ ‌having‌ ‌their‌ ‌lives‌ ‌impacted‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌Taliban,‌ ‌but‌ ‌soon,‌ ‌something‌ ‌major‌ ‌

happened.‌ ‌The‌ ‌Taliban‌ ‌hosted‌ ‌a‌ ‌speech,‌ ‌where‌ ‌they‌ ‌said‌ ‌democracy‌ ‌is‌ ‌un-Islamic‌ ‌and‌ ‌planned‌ ‌

an‌ ‌attack‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌capital‌ ‌with‌ ‌Mingoria‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌crossfire.‌ ‌Most‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌people‌ ‌of‌ ‌Mingora‌ ‌were‌ ‌

fleeing.‌ ‌It‌ ‌was‌ ‌packed‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌streets‌ ‌as‌ ‌everyone,‌ ‌afraid‌ ‌for‌ ‌their‌ ‌lives,‌ ‌left.‌ ‌Malala‌ ‌and‌ ‌her‌ ‌

mother‌ ‌and‌ ‌siblings‌ ‌went‌ ‌to‌ ‌stay‌ ‌with‌ ‌family‌ ‌in‌ ‌Shangla.‌ ‌Her‌ ‌father‌ ‌stayed‌ ‌with‌ ‌other‌ ‌activists‌ ‌to‌ ‌

meet‌ ‌and‌ ‌protest.‌ ‌After‌ ‌three‌ ‌months‌ ‌of‌ ‌fighting,‌ ‌the‌ ‌army‌ ‌ran‌ ‌the‌ ‌Taliban‌ ‌out‌ ‌of‌ ‌Mingora.‌ ‌

Malala’s‌ ‌family‌ ‌was‌ ‌reunited,‌ ‌but‌ ‌when‌ ‌they‌ ‌returned,‌ ‌their‌ ‌city‌ ‌had‌ ‌been‌ ‌ravaged.‌ ‌



Malala was always a brave girl with a strong voice (Guggenheim). She was inspired by the speeches her father gave and spoke for what she believed in. Like the heroine Malalai she was named for, she used her words. During the time where the Taliban were rising, Malala’s father would often be out of the house giving speeches or going to events (Yousafzai, and McCormick 43-51) (Guggenheim). Malala wondered why going to school was such a crime and decided to stand up for what’s right (Yousafzai, and McCormick 52-65). Following in his footsteps, Malala gave her first speech at age 11 and continued to speak. Even though journalists and news people would come to ask about the Taliban, most people would be too scared to speak (Guggenheim). But Malala and her school friends were brave (Yousafzai, and McCormick 69-91). They wrote speeches about how they felt about the Taliban destroying girls' schools and read them on TV. Malala was also featured on local TV channels, radio, and newspapers. One of these was an interview on a Pakistan show, Capital Talk (Blumberg,‌ ‌“Malala‌ ‌Yousafzai‌ ‌|‌ ‌Biography,‌ ‌Nobel‌ ‌Prize,‌ ‌&‌ Facts"). 


She and other schoolgirls stood for what they believed and continued to go to school despite the risks (Guggenheim). Malala spread the situation with girls’ education and the message of its importance. She had seen firsthand how important it was. Even her own mother was not educated as a child. She sold her schoolbooks for candy and never learned to read or write. She now regretted it and struggled with reading things at the marketplace and writing. Malala did not want anyone to be like that.

Around a year after her first speech, a friend of Malala’s father that worked for the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) came to Malala’s school, asking one of the girls to write a journal documenting their life with the Taliban (Yousafzai, and McCormick 69-91). An older girl made a journal but was stopped by her father because he was afraid she would be killed for it (Guggenheim). Malala decided to write it instead (Yousafzai, and McCormick 69-91) (Guggenheim) (Blumberg,‌ ‌“Malala‌ ‌Yousafzai‌ ‌|‌ ‌Biography,‌ ‌Nobel‌ ‌Prize,‌ ‌&‌ Facts"). So, she began blogging for the BBC under a pseudonym, spreading her situation and message around the world.   

Just after returning from escape during the Taliban/Army battle, Malala and her father were reunited and featured in a short film by the New York Times, A Schoolgirl’s Odyssey (Blumberg,‌ ‌“Malala‌ ‌Yousafzai‌ ‌|‌ ‌Biography,‌ ‌Nobel‌ ‌Prize,‌ ‌&‌ Facts"). The film showed the city and Malala’s school wrecked after the battle. Soon after that, Malala was invited to the District Child Assembly Swat (Yousafzai, and McCormick 92-113). Over the course of a year, she passed nine resolutions that were sent to the government. In 2011, she was also nominated for the International Peace Prize of Kids Rights by activist Desmond Tutu (Blumberg,‌ ‌“Malala‌ ‌Yousafzai‌ ‌|‌ ‌Biography,‌ ‌Nobel‌ ‌Prize,‌ ‌&‌ Facts") (Yousafzai, and McCormick 92-113). She was also awarded Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize, which was later renamed the Malala prize in her honor. 

Malala became widely known for her Education Rights Activism (Yousafzai, and McCormick 117-130)  (Blumberg,‌ ‌“Malala‌ ‌Yousafzai‌ ‌|‌ ‌Biography,‌ ‌Nobel‌ ‌Prize,‌ ‌&‌ Facts"). She loved her school and education, and wanted everyone to have that, and she never let anything stop her (Yousafzai, and McCormick 117-130). She decided that she wanted to be a politician and advocate for girls rights to make her dreams reality. Despite the happiness surrounding her recent accomplishments, the Taliban were still around, and they began making death threats to her. She was brave facing it, but her father thought they should stop campaigning for a while. When she turned 15, she set her mind to becoming a women’s rights activist in the future. She and some of her classmates even discussed creating an education foundation. But while she was campaigning, people began to worry about what the Taliban would do, and what would happen to her.



In 2012, on a day like any other, Malala was riding home from school on the bus with her friends (Yousafzai, and McCormick 117-130). Suddenly, their bus halted and a man with a gun stepped inside. He asked, “Who is Malala?”, and fired three bullets, hitting Malala and two of her friends (Guggenheim) (Yousafzai, and McCormick 117-133) (Blumberg,‌ ‌“Malala‌ ‌Yousafzai‌ ‌|‌ ‌Biography,‌ ‌Nobel‌ ‌Prize,‌ ‌&‌ Facts"). Malala was taken into intensive care and woke up in a hospital in Birmingham, England.

She woke up in the hospital confused (Yousafzai, and McCormick 133-140). She could not remember much about the attack, and she could not speak because of the tubes in her mouth. The doctors eventually gave her a notebook, and she wrote questions for them. She would repeatedly ask where her father was (Yousafzai, and McCormick 133-140) (Guggenheim). She also worried about the payment for her treatment and would constantly ask the doctors about it (Yousafzai, and McCormick 133-140). She stayed in a fading consciousness state, asking the same questions and having trouble remembering the shooting.

She was finally able to call her parents, and they said that they were traveling to England (Yousafzai, and McCormick 141-145). Malala was given a mirror to see what she looked like. Her hair was shaved and she had bruises and tubes attached to her, but she did not care. She was grateful to be alive and just wanted to see her family. The doctors explained to her how the bullet had grazed her temple and traveled into her left shoulder. She was calm and did not worry much about the injuries. Malala’s family still had not been able to come to England yet, so Malala watched television while waiting for them (Yousafzai, and McCormick 146-164). After a while the tube in Malala’s throat was removed so she could speak. She got to call her parents again and this time talk to them. They finally arrived at the hospital and the family was reunited. They filled her in on all that had happened.

While she was recovering, the news of the attack spread all over the world (Yousafzai, and McCormick 146-164) (Blumberg,‌ ‌“Malala‌ ‌Yousafzai‌ ‌|‌ ‌Biography,‌ ‌Nobel‌ ‌Prize,‌ ‌&‌ Facts"). People worldwide were praying for her, and many people had tried to visit her. She was on lots of news channels, and people were sending her letters wishing her a fast recovery (Yousafzai, and McCormick 165-175). Celebrities and government leaders were talking about her. Her message was spreading far and wide. Malala slowly recovered (Guggenheim) (Yousafzai, and McCormick 165-175). It took lots of time, but after many surgeries and physiotherapy, she was released from the hospital in 2013.


Awards and Accomplishments

While she was recovering and her story was being spread, a UN envoy for global education, Gordon Brown, created a petition for all children to be back in school by 2015 (Blumberg,‌ ‌“Malala‌ ‌Yousafzai‌ ‌|‌ ‌Biography,‌ ‌Nobel‌ ‌Prize,‌ ‌&‌ Facts"). That petition led to Pakistan’s first Education Rights Bill. Also after the attack, the Pakistan president launched a 10 million dollar education fund in Malala’s honor. The Vital Voices Global Partnership also started the Malala fund, which supports education for girls throughout the world. 

After she recovered, she gave a speech to the United Nations on her 16th birthday (Guggenheim) (Blumberg,‌ ‌“Malala‌ ‌Yousafzai‌ ‌|‌ ‌Biography,‌ ‌Nobel‌ ‌Prize,‌ ‌&‌ Facts"). There she won the United Nations Human Rights Prize (Blumberg,‌ ‌“Malala‌ ‌Yousafzai‌ ‌|‌ ‌Biography,‌ ‌Nobel‌ ‌Prize,‌ ‌&‌ Facts"). She wrote a memoir, “I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban”. She became the youngest person to ever receive a liberty medal in 2014. Also in 2014, she became the youngest person to ever receive a Nobel Peace Prize (Guggenheim) (Blumberg,‌ ‌“Malala‌ ‌Yousafzai‌ ‌|‌ ‌Biography,‌ ‌Nobel‌ ‌Prize,‌ ‌&‌ Facts"). 

Malala now lives with her family in England (Yousafzai, and McCormick 176-182). She’s adjusting to city life, but promises to one day go home. She graduated from Oxford College in 2020 (Blumberg,‌ ‌“Malala‌ ‌Yousafzai‌ ‌|‌ ‌Biography,‌ ‌Nobel‌ ‌Prize,‌ ‌&‌ Facts"). She now uses her publicity to speak for issues all over the world (Guggenheim) (Blumberg,‌ ‌“Malala‌ ‌Yousafzai‌ ‌|‌ ‌Biography,‌ ‌Nobel‌ ‌Prize,‌ ‌&‌ Facts"). She worked with schools in Kenya, helped children with schooling in Syria, and brought light to issues like the abduction of Nigerian schoolgirls (Guggenheim). She now continues to spread her message and fights for education rights. 


Impact and Message

Malala is an inspiration to women, children, and people everywhere. Ever since she was little, she has seen the way the world was and the way it could be. She has had faith in her beliefs and let them guide the change she makes. And she has had courage in the face of great fear. She has shown people across the globe that one person can make a tremendous impact. As she said in her United Nations speech, “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world”. She is a leader and advocate for great change and shows how no matter who you are, you can make a difference. 



Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is a young man who is a climate change activist (Eyen, “Xiuhtezcatl Martinez”). He was born on May 9, 2000, in Boulder, Colorado. He is of Aztec descent and was raised with indiginous beliefs (Martinez, 3-16) (Eyen, “Xiuhtezcatl Martinez”) (Martinez, 6:00-8:17). He was raised believing in the Aztec ways of nature, such as the concept of “Teotl”, which is the belief of a power that fuels the regeneration of nature (Eyen, “Xiuhtezcatl Martinez”). His heritage gave him a close connection with the earth and the life on it (Martinez, 3-16). It also gave him the belief that it is the people’s duty to protect the Earth (Martinez, 3-16) (Eyen, “Xiuhtezcatl Martinez”). These beliefs, along with influence from his family, are what first introduced him to activism (Eyen, “Xiuhtezcatl Martinez”). His family had always been advocates for climate change, protesting locally and doing their part in the climate movement. His mother was the co-founder of Earth Guardians, an organization that fought local environmental issues and climate change, as well as educated about environmental issues (Martinez, 3-16) (Eyen, “Xiuhtezcatl Martinez”). From the young age of 6, he learned about climate change and wanted to stop it (Martinez, 6:00-8:17) His beliefs were carried with him into activism. His work in the climate movement made him a known activist who uses speech and music to make a difference. Xiuhtezcatl believes that climate change is a human rights issue, as it affects people’s ability to live in a healthy world, and that it can be solved with the ideas and support of young people today. He shows the power the youth have and how anyone can do anything they set their mind to.


Xiuhtezcatl has always been proud of his heritage (Martinez, 3-16). Being raised in the indiginous traditions and beliefs of the Mexica people, Xiuhtezcatl grew a strong connection with nature. He believed that it was the duty of people to take care of the earth for future generations (Martinez, 6:00-8:17). Ever since he can remember, he has been living in the ways of his people and giving back to the Earth (Martinez, 12:24-14:41). He took part in ceremonies and traditions of his people (Martinez, 3-16). He received his name at a naming ceremony, and because of that believes his name is a deeper part of him. He thinks that many things can benefit from indiginous knowledge, and if we had a greater connection to the environment climate change could be stopped and the planet could be restored.

Xiuhtezcatl matured from a young age, learning that the world is not sustainable (Martinez, 17-26). When he was six years old, he watched the documentary, “The Eleventh Hour”, and was upset to see the state the environment was in and wondered how people could let it happen (Martinez, 8:18-10:23). It was difficult for him to grasp the idea that the world he felt so connected to was falling apart. As soon as he learned about climate change he wanted to stop it. He believed it was his duty to be a protector of the earth (Martinez, 6:00-8:17). So at the age of six, he began his work in the climate movement. At this same age, he gave his first speech at a global warming rally in Colorado (Martinez, 17-26) (Martinez, 6:00-8:17) (Eyen, “Xiuhtezcatl Martinez”). He talked about how people are the cause of things like factories because they are buying from them, and how we should change our lifestyles to restore the Earth (Martinez, 17-26). 

His mother created the environmental activism group, Earth Guardians (Martinez, 17-26) (Eyen, “Xiuhtezcatl Martinez”). The organization fought local environmental issues (Martinez, 17-26) . They did educational programs and held protests, like trying to persuade people to bring reusable bags to the grocery store. His family being so involved in activism led him to research and learn about it (Martinez, 8:18-10:23). This led him to create a youth Earth Guardians group with his friends at age nine (Eyen, “Xiuhtezcatl Martinez”).  The group protested the additional chemicals being added to pesticides used in parks in Boulder (Martinez, 17-26). They went to a youth press conference to speak about it. The council made the decision to remove pesticides because of the kids’ speeches. Xiuhtezcatl continued to be a part of the Earth Guardians going to events and protests for environmental issues and climate change.

Xiuhtezcatl realized that a great amount of things in his life were affected by climate change. He loved the ocean when he was young, even though he did not grow up near it (Martinez, 83-94). He had a friend who grew up on a reef and had seen how it was slowly decaying. When he had finished middle school, climate change had become worse than ever (Martinez, Prologue). The world he knew was falling apart, and that fueled his desire to make a difference. He saw how indiginous ways could help restore the Earth. For example, on a high school trip to Peru, he saw the idiginous people living there. Their farming practices that were used for centuries were sustainable for the environment (Martinez, 103-125). 


Xiuhtezcatl saw how the world was being affected by climate change (Martinez, 141-159). In the areas near him and in places far away that he had heard of, people’s homes were being destroyed and lives being wrecked by climate change and pollution (Martinez, 53-64) (Martinez, 10:33-12:23). From the forests of his homeland to small islands out in the ocean, climate change has been tearing apart the world (Martinez, 53-64). Xiuhtezcatl saw what people were doing to cause climate change and what it did to the environment, and wanted to stop it (Martinez, 17-26). Ever since his first speech at age six, he has been fighting climate change and for the future of the world. He believes that it is people’s failure to realize the threat of climate change that prevents progress towards stopping it (Martinez, 189-203). 

When he was 11, he was part of a protest, along with other Earth Guardians, against a local coal power plant (Martinez, 17-26). Hundreds of people rode bikes through the city to the plant and planted sunflowers along the fence. The coal plant employees then tore up the sunflowers, so the protesters had a funeral for them. They sang songs and gave prayers. The media covered the story, and after seven years, the coal plant was finally closed. 

Xiuhtezcatl was invited to speak and perform at many events in his teens (Martinez, 131-138). He went to many rallies, such as one against a coal mining industry that was destroying the natural landscape of the area. This was happening near where he lived. He and other Earth Guardians protested the local coal plant. They got a public hearing for it, and months later the EPA announced national regulations for the safe removal of ash from coal power plants. He also gave a TEDxYouth speech in 2014 (Eyen, “Xiuhtezcatl Martinez”).

In 2012, Xiuhtezcatl attended the UN conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) (Martinez, 189-203). Numerous amounts of other young people came to speak. There were many events, parades, and rallies for this event. He was also invited to march in the New York People’s Climate march. The hundreds of thousands of people held a moment of silence for everyone who’s home, health, or life has been affected by climate change, and they broke out in celebration for the hope of the future afterwards. Since then the People’s Climate Movement has held many more rallies and demanded many changes. 

Xiuhtezcatl saw that a big contributor to climate change was companies using false solutions or ignoring the consequences of their actions on the environment (Martinez, 53-64). While at a Paris United Nations conference, he and the Earth Guardians were invited to perform at an environmental event, COP 21 solutions. They found out that the event was sponsored by big fossil fuel industries, so they made a statement about how they were not willing to accept fake solutions like these. The event managers tried to silence them and get them off the stage, but they showed everyone how if real change was going to happen, they would need to stop fake solutions. 

A pipeline that would transport oil was being built where he lived (Martinez, 131-138). Many activists protested and were arrested. The pipeline struggle continued for years. There were many rallies all over, including ones at the white house with 40,000 people. Xiuhtezcatl and his brother performed for a rally in Denver during this time. There were many more rallies and protests over the years as the fight continued. Finally the president vetoed the law about the pipeline and a victory was secured. However, 3 years later the pipelines were approved. 

Fossil fuels are becoming rarer and industries have resorted to things like deep sea oil drilling and fracking (Martinez, 131-138). Fracking is an oil technique that is extremely harmful for the climate (Martinez, 141-159). People who live near fracking sites, including near his home, have poisoned and polluted water. Movements against fracking started in the years to come after a documentary about fracking was released. New York eventually passed a temporary halt on fracking. Even so, there were fracking industries trying to frack in Colorado. Xiuhtezcatl and his brother were invited to perform at anti-fracking rallies. He, with Earth Guardians and other people, went to a meeting with his home county commissioners who were discussing fracking in the area. The people began chanting against fracking, and the commissioners left because they could not silence the people. Xiuhtezcatl and his friends took the seats of the commissioners and started speaking. They took a vote by show of hands on who wanted to ban fracking. People were more willing to listen to them after that meeting, and the county staff decided to extend the temporary fracking ban. Many towns then voted for temporary and permanent fracking bans. Unfortunately, the governor continued with fracking. 

Showing people the dangers of fracking fluids in water, the Earth Guardians and many other groups went to the Democratic Governors Conference and held a rally (Martinez, 141-159). Earth Guardians performed a skit about how fracking fluids in drinking water can affect people

Xiuhtezcatl has done presentations and educational things at schools to teach about fracking and its impact. He has received much criticism for this as the kids who were excited about the presentations told their parents and word spread to adults and workers of the fracking industry. But that did not stop him from spreading his message. He also wrote an article about fracking called “Why Would People from the Oil and Gas Industry Bully 10- and 13-Year-Old Kids?”

At age 15, Xiuhtezcatl was featured in a short film, “Kid Warrior”, which was an Earth Guardian film made to inspire action (Martinez, Prologue) (Eyen, “Xiuhtezcatl Martinez”). Someone who worked for the United Nations saw the film and invited him to speak. He ended up giving a speech about climate change at the UN climate conference (Martinez, Prologue). This speech brought his message across to people around the world.

Many people, including Xiuhtezcatl, protested when Trump was elected, because of his failure to recognize climate change and other issues (Martinez, 40-50). He realized that political connections with large industries are a big part of what caused little action on climate change. So he joined a constitutional climate recovery lawsuit against the U.S. government to hold the government accountable for their lack of participation in stopping climate change (Martinez, 40-50) (Eyen, “Xiuhtezcatl Martinez”) (Martinez, 21:55-22:31). This was done with a group he joined called Our Children’s Trust. Twenty other youths joined in this lawsuit, saying that the Government’s inaction is causing the climate crisis. They also said that climate change is a human rights issue as it affects the rights to life, liberty, and property (Martinez, 21:55-21:31). They said that the government was choosing to support fossil fuels and big industries instead of protecting the right of a healthy future for the people (Martinez, 27-39). At the lawsuit, the kids all presented stories of how they were affected by climate change. The case is still ongoing today. 

All of Xiuhtezcatl’s acts, ranging from small, grassroot protests to things as big as suing the U.S. government, present hope for the future and change to come. He is an inspiration and a reminder that all people have a role to play, even if it is small, because even the smallest acts can create big change. He fights for the future of the world and is a symbol of youth empowerment.

Music Career

Xiuhtezcatl enjoyed music from a young age (Eyen, “Xiuhtezcatl Martinez”). He realized that music had been used throughout time as a way to empower people (Martinez 27-39). He saw that stories are a great way to educate and inspire people, whether it is through music, film, or book (Martinez, 83-94). He believed that he could reach out to more people about climate change through music (Eyen, “Xiuhtezcatl Martinez”). So, he based his activism on music (Eyen, “Xiuhtezcatl Martinez”).  He writes and performs hip-hop rap songs about climate change, and uses those songs as a tool to inspire and educate people. As the Earth Guardians movement has spread around the world, online and in person, so has Xiuhtezcatl’s music and message (Martinez, 27-39). Xiuhtezcatl has performed his songs at many rallies, such as a pipeline rally in Denver where he performed with his brother (Martinez, 131-138). At age 12 he released a song protesting fracking industries called, “What the Frack?”, which he was invited to perform at anti-fracking rallies. He was also invited to perform at a Keystone KXL pipeline rally at Standing Rock (Martinez, 160-173). He has released other songs including: “Be the Change” (Eyen, “Xiuhtezcatl Martinez”). He also sings during speeches to help people connect to his message. In 2017, he won the MTV Europe Music Generation Change Award. He is now 21 and plans on continuing his activism and music career. He continues to write and perform music and has collaborated with other musicians and artists.


Achievements and Awards

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez accomplished a lot for someone so young (Eyen, “Xiuhtezcatl Martinez”). The environment has been important to him all his life and he devoted himself to protecting it. He has found ways to spread the message of climate change whether it is through speech or song. He gave a speech at the United Nations at the age of 15 (Martinez, Prologue). He has participated in and performed at countless rallies and events all over, and has made a name for himself as a climate warrior. He has won the United States Volunteer Service Award, the MTV Europe Music Generation Change Award, and was the youngest member of Barack Obama’s youth council (Eyen, “Xiuhtezcatl Martinez”). Even though he was just a teenager, he did incredible things and continues to today. He proved his message that young are the future of this world and can do anything they set their minds to. 

Xiuhtezcatl is now 21 and plans on continuing his activism and music career and directs Earth Guardians with other young activists (Eyen, “Xiuhtezcatl Martinez”). He has written books  “We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement That Restores the Planet” and “Imaginary Borders”. He continues his music activism and career as a streaming artist. He uses his fame platform and presence in media to protest climate change as well as educate and spread awareness. 


Works cited:

Yousafzai, Malala. I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up For Education and Changed the World. Thorndike Press, 2018

Blumberg, Naomi. "Malala Yousafzai". Encyclopedia Britannica, 8 Jul. 2021, britannica.com/biography/Malala-YousUSafzai. Accessed 18 August 2021.

He Named Me Malala. Directed by Davis Guggenheim. Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2015.


Martinez, Xuihtezcatl. We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet. Rodale Publishing, 2017

Eyen, Lena. “Xiuhtezcatl Martinez”. Santa Clara University, 19 Nov, 2017  scu.edu/environmental-ethics/environmental-activists- heroes-and-martyrs/xiuhtezcatl-martinez.html

Martinez, Xiuhtezcatl “What Are We Fighting For?” 2016 National Bioneers Conference, December, 1, 2016

The author's comments:

Yet another school project (lol). Even though this large assignment caused me a lot of stress and was mostly made at 1 am, I greatly admire Malala and Xiuhtezcatl. They are both amazing young activists who are changing our world for the better, and, in the long run, I'm glad I did this project, because I was able to learn about them. Researching and learning about what they did and still do, especially at a young age, made me feel empowered. This is sort of a biography of both activists and their inspiration/changes to the world. I truly hope that you enjoy and are inspired. Also - Order of article is Introduction, Malala biography, Xiuhtezcatl biography, and Citations. We were supposed to write a conclusion section but never got to do it.

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