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"I feared losing my humanity." Malala Yousafzai never wanted to get married. This week, she did.

For years, Malala Yousafzai was adamant she didn't want to get married.

She said as much as recently as a July 2021 profile for British Vogue, so when Malala shared the news of her November 9 wedding to partner Asser Malik on social media, it was a surprise.

The 24-year-old, who lives in the United Kingdom, said she and her new husband wed in the city of Birmingham and celebrated at home with their families.

"Today marks a precious day in my life. Asser and I tied the knot to be partners for life," she wrote on Twitter, adding four pictures to her post.

"We celebrated a small nikkah ceremony at home in Birmingham with our families. Please send us your prayers. We are excited to walk together for the journey ahead."

In July 2021, Malala spoke to British Vogue magazine about her uncertainly towards marriage.

"I still don't understand why people have to get married. If you want to have a person in your life, why do you have to sign marriage papers, why can't it just be a partnership?

"My mum is like 'Don’t you dare say anything like that! You have to get married, marriage is beautiful'... Even until my second year of university, I just thought, 'I'm never going to get married, never going to have kids – just going to do my work. I'm going to be happy and live with my family forever.' I didn't realise that you’re not the same person all the time. You change as well and you're growing."

Days later, Malala explained her change-of-mind in an essay for the same publication.

"I wasn't against marriage, but I was cautious about its practice. I questioned the patriarchal roots of the institution, the compromises women are expected to make after the wedding, and how laws regarding relationships are influenced by cultural norms and misogyny in many corners of the world," she wrote.

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"I feared losing my humanity, my independence, my womanhood – my solution was to avoid getting married at all."

Malala said she couldn't call herself a feminist if she didn't have reservations, considering the experiences of millions of girls worldwide, including friends she knew from Pakistan, for whom marriage is servitude.

"Many girls I grew up with were married even before they had the opportunity to decide on a career for themselves. One friend had a child when she was just 14 years old.

"Some girls dropped out of education because their families could not afford to send them to school; some started school but didn't do well enough to meet their families' expectations. Their parents decided their education was not worth the cost. 

"For these girls, marriage means their lives are deemed a failure. They're still school-age, but they already know they'll never get the chance to achieve their dreams."

However, through conversations with her friends, mentors and Assar, Malala said she realised she could have a marriage and also remain true to her values.

Malala and Asser met in 2018, when he was visiting Oxford, where she went to university.

Asser is general manager of the Pakistan Cricket Board's High Performance Centre, and images featuring Malala on his social media date back to 2019.

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For British Vogue, she wrote that in him she had found "a best friend and companion".

"I still don't have all the answers for the challenges facing women – but I believe that I can enjoy friendship, love and equality in marriage."

On Twitter, Asser shared a photo of them cutting a celebratory cake.

"In Malala, I found the most supportive friend, a beautiful and kind partner — I'm so excited to spend the rest of our life together," he wrote.

The 24-year-old shared photos from her wedding ceremony, featuring Asser, as well as her parents, Ziauddin Yousafzai and Toor Pekai Yousafzai on Instagram.

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In October 2012, Malala awoke in a hospital in Birmingham to find that millions around the world knew her story. She was the girl who had stood up to the Taliban.

As the terrorist organisation increased its stranglehold on parts of her country in the early 2000s, women were gradually stripped of their rights and forced back into their homes; markets were suddenly off limits, shops bore signs banning them from entry, burqas were the expected form of dress.

Then in December 2008, news came that girls in Malala's region would be banned from going to school. Malala and her father, Ziauddin – a school founder, activist and proud feminist – stood up and spoke out against this injustice. She blogged anonymously for the BBC about her increasingly restricted life, and spoke publicly on local television and radio.

But while her criticism of the regime made her a hero in the eyes of a global audience, in Swat District, she was a target.

Image: Getty. 

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As Malala wrote in her book, I Am Malala, she later learned the details of the October 9 attack. A man wearing a baseball cap boarded the bus and demanded to know who among the passengers was Malala.

"No one said anything, but several of the girls looked at me," she wrote. "I was the only girl with my face not covered. That's when he lifted up the black pistol.

"My friends later told me the gunman's hand was shaking as he fired."

No matter how brutal the Taliban were known to be, at the time, people still questioned how they could send assassins after a schoolgirl and fire a bullet into her head in front of a bus full of children.

Speaking in front of an 8000-strong crowd in Sydney in 2018, Malala put it simply:

"I was perceived as a threat because I could empower girls."

That's precisely why she has continued being a vocal advocate for educating girls, in Pakistan and abroad.

After her recovery, she co-founded the Malala Fund, a non-profit organisation advocating for girls' education. In 2017, she became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner in history.

The 2013, 2014 and 2015 issues of Time magazine featured her as one of the most influential people globally, and she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University in 2020.

This article was originally published on November 10, 2021, and has since been updated.

Feature Image: Twitter.