Why Malala Yousafzai Deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, Not Just the Kiddie Version
On Thursday, education activist and Taliban shooting survivor Malala Yousafzai was handed the 2013 International Children's Peace Prize. Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman presented Yousafzai the award in The Hague, Netherlands.
The International Children's Peace Prize is awarded annually to a child who has shown his or her dedication to children's rights. Last year, a 13-year-old boy named Kesz won the award for helping street children in his country.
Yousafzai has more than shown her commitment to the children, mostly young girls of her community in Pakistan. She has almost given her life speaking out against the ban of girls' education in the Swat Valley. Abdul Hai Kakkar, a BBC Urdu service correspondent approached administrators and teachers in 2009, searching for someone to write about life under the Swat Taliban. None would come forward, except for 11-year-old Yousafzai. By this time, the Taliban had blown up more than a hundred girls' schools.
After writing the diary under a pseudonym for the BBC Urdu, Yousafzai decided to show her face and became very outspoken for education on her Facebook page. Extremists threatened her online, eventually leading to the shooting incident on her bus ride home from school.
Yousafzai has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize – the youngest person to be recommended to receive the award – and it's not surprising why. But what we may not understand is why she deserves it more than others.
Angelina Jolie, who as of April 2012 has been serving as Special Envoy of UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, wrote an article for the Daily Beast telling how she explained to her children the importance of Yousafzai's work and what it means for children around the world. She wrote, "Still trying to understand, my children asked, 'Why did those men think they needed to kill Malala?' I answered, 'because an education is a powerful thing.'" That it is.
Whether or not you believe Yousafzai deserves the Nobel Peace Prize mainly centers on what she has done for the global education movement. In areas such as Pakistan where more than half the population cannot read, her young voice speaks for those who are too afraid to. Her supporters find strength in her courage, leading to actions including the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown's 3 million–strong petition to make education free and compulsory, and to introduce stipends to support 3 million girls going to school.
The attack on Yousafzai alone sent a "wave of revulsion," fighting ambivalence toward the rising extremism in Pakistan. Asia Society writes, "Six months down the road, everything could potentially change if Yousafzai wins a Nobel Peace Prize, resurrecting another 'Malala moment' by galvanizing Pakistani public opinion against the rising tide of extremism."
In an interview, Yousafzai was quoted saying, "I don't mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I'm afraid of no one." It is people like Yousafzai who are worthy of such an honor as that of the Nobel Peace Prize. It would send a message to extremists, the poor, the wealthy, the young, and fundamentalists that knowledge is power, and everyone should have access to that power.