Leader of an international movement for girls’ education and author of her autobiography, I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzai added the Nobel Peace Prize to her long list of accomplishments on Friday, Oct. 10. Pakistani child education activist Malala, 17, became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, sharing the honor with Indian child rights campaigner Kailash Satyarthi.
“The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism,” the Nobel Peace Prize press release stated.
History and Social Sciences Department Head Michael Rindge said that he thinks the committee recognizes that there are international humanitarian issues that cross many boundaries, be it geographically, religiously, or politically. He believes that choosing Malala and Satyarthi to share the Prize is symbolic of this idea, since the two transcend many divisions, such as age, gender and religion.
“I think it’s a recognition that people from all kinds of walks of life are in a position to be recognized for all of the fine human rights work they do,” Rindge added.
According to the Malala Fund, an organization started by Malala and her father Ziauddin Yousafzai aimed at empowering girls through education, Malala began her fight for gender equality at age 11, when she first promoted the necessity of girls’ education via an anonymous BBC blog. One of her first public recognitions was in Oct. 2011, when Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a South African activist, nominated Malala for the International Children’s Peace Prize.
“Malala dared to stand up for herself and other girls and used national and international media to let the world know girls should also have the right to go to school,” Tutu announced.
However, as she pursued her mission for equality, her words reached a broader audience and soon endangered her life. Roughly a year after being nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize, a gunman working for the Taliban fired three shots at Malala while she was on her way home from school on Oct. 9, 2012. One of the shots struck her in the head, placing her in critical condition.
After recovering from her injuries, Malala gave a speech on Jul. 12, 2013 at the United Nations Youth Takeover, explaining that that act of violence will not stop her from fighting for what she believes in.
“They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And then, out of that silence came, thousands of voices,” Malala expressed at the conference.
Annie ’16 is a teen representative of the United Nations Foundation Girl Up, a campaign that gives girls the chance to become global leaders. In June of 2014, she was given the opportunity to talk about girls’ education with Mr. Yousafzai. She said that he articulated his pride about his daughter’s accomplishments, and she added that Malala’s actions are made more impressive when one considers the obstacles she faced.
“I think all of this shows her courage and her bravery; I’m really inspired by the fact that she’s been able to overcome these tremendous boundaries,” Annie said.
In the same United Nations speech, Malala thanked her mother and father for teaching her the value of love, which allowed her to forgive those who harmed her. She explained her belief that that the anger and subsequent violence directed towards her are derived from fear.
“The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them,” Malala said in her speech.
Recently, Malala focused her attention on supporting the Bring Back Our Girls Campaign, which has crusaded to find and return the remaining 219 Nigerian school girls who were kidnapped by the extremist group Boko Haram on the night of Apr. 14, 2014. Malala announced that campaigners would have to be even more vocal to demand the girls’ freedom.
“I urge the Nigerian government and the international community to redouble their efforts to bring a quick and peaceful conclusion to this crisis,” Malala included in the statement.
Though some students expressed worry that her safety could be endangered by the increased amount of attention she has received, Rindge said that he thinks the strength of her ideas and her initiative will help overcome a lot of that concern.
“I think [the Nobel Peace Prize] elevates not only her position but the people who she inspires, and that’s really what’s important,” he said.