Malala deserves Nobel award, status as role model


Nicholas Martin

Junior Michael Egan reads the autobiography of Malala Yousafzai.

Nick Martin, Staff Writer

Malala Yousafzai grabbed the world’s attention in 2012 after surviving a near-fatal gunshot wound to the head from a member of the Taliban when she lived in Pakistan. She released her full story to the world a year later with her autobiography, I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban. Undaunted, Malala has continued to work for equal education for females, and in October made history as the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize at 17.

Malala and 60-year-old Kailash Satyarthi of India received the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. Both have worked hard to improve children’s rights in their countries. Malala, who started her work in the Swat Valley, wants females to have the right to receive an education that is equal to those of their male counterparts. Satyarthi in 1980 started the Bachpan Bachao Andolan, or the Save Childhood Movement, in India. Bachpan Bachao Andolan campaigns for the end of child labor and human trafficking. It also supports education for children.

One would assume that her countrymen would embrace Malala’s recent honor, but the opposite is true. A surprising number of Pakistanis claim she has done nothing more than get shot in the head and survive. These sentiments about Malala are ill-founded. She has done so much more to deserve the award.

Malala grew up in a war-torn country controlled by the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist group that harms anyone who disagrees with its pseudo-Islamic laws. Women have lost all their rights because of these hypocritical thugs. The Taliban uses religious works like the Quran and twists their original meanings to condone horrific acts such as mass murder and honor killings. Many reports show that the Taliban has burned down schools with students, often girls, trapped inside.

Malala was shot for a reason. At 15, she had the courage to stand up as a woman and demand her right to an education. For facing a group that even her own government fears, all of Pakistan should revere Malala as a hero. The many who remain critical of her achievements should agree with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who said that Malala “is the pride of Pakistan.” For her bravery under such oppressive conditions, Malala deserves the Nobel Peace Prize whether or not her own country celebrates her.

Two years ago, after she was shot, every major news organization was flooded with stories about a young Pakistani girl who was shot for the crime of wanting an education. Her story shocked millions around the world who were unaware of the ill treatment girls and women face daily in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and, sadly, many others.

Malala’s bravery that day on the way to school changed the world.  It spotlighted the atrocities the Taliban has been perpetrating on females. The “Malala effect” was felt here too. Ex Libris, the Starr’s Mill book club, chose to study a book that chronicles the actions of a girl who lived 7,485 miles away in a remote Pakistani village. Members of Ex Libris connected with her story and decided to share her autobiography with its members. Members of the discussion group, led by History teacher Rebecca Rickeard, admired Malala’s work for equal rights.

Today’s teenagers look for role models in movies, on television and in sports, but maybe they are looking in the wrong places. “Girls and boys of the world should take lead from Malala’s struggle and commitment,” Sharif said. Malala Yousafzai, a high-school student herself, should be an inspiration to everyone for challenging an oppressive system and fighting for women’s education. She set aside everything and almost died to protect the rights of her peers and her own people.  It’s hard for us to imagine living in a situation like Malala’s and even harder to envision taking a stand like she did. Unfortunately, many Americans remain oblivious about what happened two years ago in the Swat Valley. The name Malala should trigger passionate dialogue and her cause should be common knowledge.

Although she has already done so much,  even Malala says, “This is only the beginning.” Teenagers should rally behind her, follow her example and fight to end the abuse of women. Malala deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for her brave and selfless actions and is the perfect symbol for women’s rights around the world.