Let me set the scene for who didn’t just win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013.
Sixteen year old Pakistani native, Malala Yousafzai, was shot in the head and neck point blank last year. She was shot by feared terrorist organization, the Taliban. She had become a target by the group by way of sticking up for her and her peers’ right to an education.
She recovered from the killing attempt. She continues to buck the Taliban anti-school campaign in her native Swat region of Pakistan by globally sharing her voice amidst renewed death threats.
She was (rightly) nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She was quoted in all her humility, denying her eligibility for the prize—thus, punctuating why she should win it even more. When interviewed recently on TV’s, The Daily Show With John Stewart, she blew us all away with her response to a grimly posed hypothetical scenario:
“There are many people who deserve the Nobel Peace Prize and I think that I still need to work a lot. In my opinion, I have not done that much to win the Nobel Peace Prize.”
So, while watching ABC News’ exclusive interview with Malala, by Diana Sawyer, that aired recently, it became abundantly clear to me that the young education advocate should indeed have been the prize winner.
A fan of Malala beforehand, I watched the entire interview. If you missed it, it was rather offsetting and utterly gut-wrenching hearing her story first hand of how she had been shot last year (a Taliban militant boarded her school bus on a mission to kill). Hearing how she feels now about it all is inspiring and beautiful.
Malala’s natural, almost kind of divinity is so apparent. Watching her in conversation, you just want to reach through the TV and give her a hug. The young Malala has this Mother Theresa-esque quality about her while talking with Sawyer about her miraculous recovery from a close range, assassination-style gun shot wound that somehow didn’t take her life.
Malala speaks about her brush with death with both maturity beyond her years as she talks about forgiveness according to Sharia (religious law of Islam) for example, yet with an infectious childhood innocence still intact as she laughs about it—namely about her confusion about her missing hair she noticed when she first looked in a mirror post-surgery.
The peace prize is supposed to be for those who are both devotedly averse to violence (embracing compassion and forgiveness) and who resonate this through their daily actions, all whilst doing so on a global scale.
Well, to that, I wish to simply point out the timing of Malala’s already now famous statement on Stewart’s show the other night (her purported anti-violence disposition on if the Taliban approached her to kill her again). It wasn’t an empty quote from a child with no weight on her shoulders.
“I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.”
Imagine the bitterness we would all feel after awakening in the hospital, confused about why we were there only to be told someone had shot to kill us for our belief in getting an education, a right that most of the world doesn’t think twice about or appreciate that they have it each day.
This young girl’s eardrum is ruptured for life and yet her trouble smiling comes only from the severed nerve in her face, not anger. Some critics against her original nomination had said she was too young, yet the wisdom you see in Malala is adult-like and uncanny as well, despite her facial nerve damage. Malala dismisses it to Sawyer as “the small things” and smiles declaring, “for the most part, I am fully recovered.”
Forgiveness is at the heart of peace and this young girl embodies it. She embodied it before her tragedy.
Other critics of Malala’s nomination said that she just hadn’t accomplished enough to merit receiving the magnanimous prize. Snarky comparisons to Obama and Monsanto aside, saying Malala hasn’t accomplished much is just nonsense.
At age 11, the girl was already blogging under a pseudonym for the BBC. Through, albeit, a few short years of protest, she almost gave her life for her cause, one known worldwide, in part, thanks to her. Think of it like a resume where the person didn’t work long, but they changed the whole company. Still a great resume.
Her impact by symbol of her repeated advocacy for education for all, particularly women, is immense.
Many Islamic adult women in Malala’s home country aren’t brave enough to question certain Islamic beliefs on female education as perhaps they are misguidedly interpreted in Sharia and Malala, not even old enough to drive, ignored letters from one of the scariest (sometimes-terror) organizations in the world.
The Taliban. A Pakistani schoolgirl.
Just thinking about it, it’s not a hyperbole when I say that this little girl is a massive hero to me.
So people miss the point: It is a reason of many that she should have won because she is a little girl.
A little girl with an enormous vision where she comes from and courageousness to match. A little girl who stared death in the face for her and others’ right to an education.
By awarding such an adult accolade to a juvenile—one that’s never been bestowed by the committee to someone younger than 33—a few things happen:
- You send a resonating and symbolic message to kids the world over that they too can matter enough to make a difference and that literally, a tiny person and a tiny voice can have a big and loud idea that sores on the quality of its merit and truth.
- You celebrate as an excellent reminder since we often forget, as adults, the wonderful, pure humanity as seen through the eyes of a child.
- You help to solidify giving kids and adults alike a known-by-one-word teen idol better than Miley, Madonna, or Kim.
- You take a deeply humble young woman who already admits she is the “voice for those who have no voice” and you give her a tremendously large role we all know she’ll live up to. She’s relentless.
When we seek to see the best in people, especially to hold them in esteem with an accolade, we elicit that reality from them and when they have a spirit like Malala’s, they will not disappoint.
Who would doubt now that she isn’t going to go on to continue and do great?
Cynics who might have casted her aside as milking a scenario only need look to the candidness of the fact that as Malala’s head surgeon tells it, “The first thing Malala wanted to know when she awoke was where her father was, if he was okay and who was paying for her hospital stay since she was worried her family couldn’t afford it.”
And ancillary, bonus reason if you will, that she should have won, is to stick it to the Taliban who is reportedly very pleased that she lost. The Taliban have been calling for death again to Malala and as well to people selling her new book, I am Malala, in her home region.
The young Yousafzai is already a target to the Taliban. The award would have been nothing new.
She has a new home, safe in England. She is going to school again. She tells Sawyer she wants to be a doctor perhaps or a politician. It sounds like she doesn’t know yet, like any normal 16 year old.
If there was ever a time for the Nobel Committee to make their decision who wins the award in a political fashion, well then in the historic award’s eponymous stance of peace, why not have thwarted terrorism to punctuate what it stands for?
And that act in doing so would be the Malala way. Because, as she so poetically put it earlier this summer in front of the UN Youth Assembly:
“Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”
Update: Malala has won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014!
Like Equal Rights for All on Facebook.
Assistant Ed: Steph Richard/Ed: Bryonie Wise