In a year where war, violent protest, terrorist attacks and deadly diseases grab every headline, it's nice to take a step back for a moment and honor those that act in peace, and dedicate their lives to the uphill battle for real change. Enter Malala Yousafzai, a 17-year-old Pakistani children's rights activist, and now by far the youngest recipient of the coveted Nobel Peace Prize.
Along with fellow winner Kailash Satyarthi, Malala was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for "their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education," the committee said.
Malala's story is nothing short of inspiring. Back in October of 2012, when she was only 15 and had already developed quite a reputation within Pakistan as a force for children's rights to education, Malala was targeted and attacked by members of the Pakistani Taliban. They found her on a school bus and fired three shots at her, one of which hit her in the head. The bullet traveled through her skull, and left out her shoulder. She was left for dead.
But miraculously, she survived. She spent three months in the hospital and has since fully recovered from the violent attack. What's remarkable about Malala is that she was not beaten by the Taliban, and their attempts did not silence her. Quite the opposite. She fired back after her short recovery, championing her message louder than ever. And the press that she received from such a story propelled her message throughout the world, inspiring everyone that heard her story, or came into contact with her. I'm reminded of Jon Stewart of the 'The Daily Show' interviewing her, and being in awe of her grace, humility, and presence. (Well worth the watch - The Daily Show: Extended Interview: Malala Yousafzai
To watch her speak about equality, and peace, given everything that's she has gone through leaves little doubt that she is as deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize as any before her. Even after what the Taliban did to her, and even after she continues to get death threats from them to this very day, she continues to spread the message of peace, and a child's right, all children's rights throughout the world, wherever they may live, for access to education.
It's all too common that for children in Pakistan and India (and many other parts of the world too) that they are exploited for financial gain, put to work and left without any opportunity to go to school. That's what Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi are peacefully fighting for and speaking out so passionately about; children should not be seen as cheap/free labor. They should be allowed to go to school. It may sound like a simple and obvious enough statement here in America. But in Malala's case, her home country of Pakistan is very divided on the issue and many violently oppose her message. All I can say is I hope that she continues spreading the message, and pushing for real change. It's simply amazing how much she has accomplished at such a young age, and I look forward to her being a positive force in the world for many, many years to come. Congrats Malala. And to Satyarthi as well; giving 40+ years of your life for this same cause is worthy of high honor.
In a year where there were talks of awarding Pope Francis or Edward Snowden, I'm glad to see they chose to single out and honor child education activists instead. It's an important topic and deserves recognition. Winning will propel both to even higher activist statuses, and allow the both to push for even more change throughout their respective homelands, and hopefully the world as well.
To help further Malala's cause, visit: The Office of the UN Special Envoy for Global Education
To read an excerpt from 'I A Malala' by her, Time Magazine gives a good one here: Malala Yousafzai: ‘The Day I Woke Up in the Hospital’