Girls in the World: Malala Yousafzai

This past Friday the Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), though in the running for the prize was 16-year old Pakistani Malala Yousafzai.

Malala is the youngest nominee for the Peace Prize, and has been working hard to promote girl’s education around the world. She received international acclaim in 2012 when the Taliban in Pakistan targeted her for her activism. One day on her way to school armed men stopped her school bus and shot her. Fortunately she survived, and is now thriving and using this tragedy to work even harder for the right to an education. She has become an international emblem for the struggle against oppression and giving girls around the world a voice.

Malala is still marked for death by the Taliban if she returns to Pakistan and has been living in the United Kingdom for the last year. Her story and fight have not gone unnoticed by the European Union who awarded her the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought award by the European Parliament. This is an annual award given to people around the world known for their fight and dedication to human rights.  Past winners of the award have included Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

In the future, Malala wishes to become Prime Minister of Pakistan in order to help the people of her home country and provide most of the budget towards education.  Her activism is a true inspiration to the world and girls who everyday are denied rights.  When Malala was on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart recently when asked about how she reacted when she found out she was targeted by the Taliban, she said:

I started thinking about that, and I used to think that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do Malala?’ then I would reply to myself, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’ But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’ Then I said I will tell him how important education is and that ‘I even want education for your children as well.’ And I will tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.’

Malala knows that violence met with violence will not result in the change that she wants to see, but that peace and speaking out for human rights, despite fear and persecution, will. Let’s join our voice with Malala’s and support the international efforts to support universal education.