But yesterday, as she waited on her school bus, she paid for her campaign for girls to be educated. She was shot in the head in front of her classmates. The Taliban claimed responsibility.
Malala was sitting in a bus ready to leave the grounds of her school in Mingora in Pakistan's Swat Valley when a bearded man entered the bus and shot her and two other girls.
Surgeons said today they had removed a bullet from Malala, near her spinal cord, but were deciding whether she needed treatment abroad. Her condition was said to be critical. The other girls were also wounded.
The teenager is widely known and respected for her work to promote the schooling of girls and denouncing the atrocities committed by the Taliban.
She won the Pakistani National Youth Peace Prize last year. She and her family have previously been threatened by the Taliban for her campaigns and authorities must now decide how they can protect her from future attack.
A spokesman for the TTP told Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune that Malala was shot because she was 'secular-minded lady' and that this should serve as a warning for other young people like her.
Spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said that she would not be safe is she survives this ordeal.
"She was pro-West, she was speaking against Taliban and she was calling President Obama her idol," he said.
"She was young but she was promoting Western culture in Pashtun areas."
Activist Malala first spoke out against the militants when she was just 11 after they took control of her region in Pakistan.
She began writing a blog for the BBC in 2009 about life under the Taliban, using a pseudonym to speak out about the need for girls' education.
The shooting sparked outrage across Pakistan, where Malala is regarded as a heroine by many.
The front pages of national newspapers carried pictures of a bandaged and bloody Yousufzai being brought to hospital.
President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and heads of various opposition parties joined human rights group Amnesty International and the United Nations in condemning the attack.
"Pakistan's future belongs to Malala and brave young girls like her. History won't remember the cowards who tried to kill her at school," Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said on Twitter.
Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf called her a 'daughter of Pakistan'.
And State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland branded the attack 'barbaric' and 'cowardly'.
The Taliban admitted targeting the girl. A spokesman said: "This was a new chapter of obscenity, and we have to finish it."
Isn't deliberately shooting a 14-year-old child and her classmates an obscenity?