If you pride yourself on being up to date on current affairs then you’ve definitely heard the name Malala Yousafzai, the teenage crusader for equality and women’s rights, who nearly lost her life after being attacked by a Taliban hit squad. So it should come as no surprise that she’s being touted as a possible nominee and potential winner of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize.
A single shocking act of vindictive wanton brutality
In 2009, from humble beginnings in the Swat Valley, Malala first caught the world’s attention with her stark and honest portrayal of life under Taliban rule. This portrayal helped to give an inside and human voice to the reality of life under occupation. Shortly after the diary’s end, the Pakistani Army moved in to retake the area. She and her family were evacuated and after the conclusion of the military campaign – before Malala returned home – she famously met US diplomat Richard Holbrooke to ask for help with bringing education to the region.
However it took a single shocking act of vindictive wanton brutality to bring the entire world down on their knees by her hospital stretcher. What ensued, Malala could never have imagined possible. After surviving – thanks to the immediate medical help and amazing skills of doctors in various Pakistani hospitals – offers came flooding in from all across the world for her to be given further treatment in the most elite hospitals. Her family agreed for her to be treated in the Birmingham Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital. Universal support for her and condemnation of her attackers followed, with support from the likes of Madonna, Ban Ki Moon, William Hague, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Angelina Jolie sweeping in like a hurricane.
Lucid, powerful and unrepentant
Today, she continues to fight on, speaking recently at the United Nations on her birthday about the struggle she and others face daily when it comes to the issue of women’s education: her words were lucid, powerful and unrepentant.
Surely she must be well on her way to winning the Nobel Prize? Unfortunately we don’t even know for sure if she’s been nominated at all, thanks to the strict rules of the Nobel Prize Committee, but it doesn’t take a Nobel laureate to figure out that her name will be on the list if the media commentary and sounds emanating discretely from Oslo are anything to by.
However this year, more than any other year I can think of, faces the toughest competition yet thanks to the likes of brave, selfless whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning and politicians unwavering in their efforts for peace such as John Kerry with his recent efforts over Israel-Palestine. So with this tough roster to compete with, why should Malala win?
Firstly Kerry’s work is premature and as for Manning and Snowden, whilst undoubtedly their actions were incredibly brave, they have not managed to do as much as Malala due to their respective circumstances.
Is she the greatest feminist alive today?
Malala Yousafzai should win though not because of her youth (although that should definitely be taken into consideration), she should not win because of what happened to her, she should win solely because of what she has done in spite of what has happened to her. Her entire story is one of unwavering belief in good in the face of overwhelming adversity, the fact she continues to be an advocate for an issue that failed to get the attention it clearly warranted, women’s rights, despite the attack is evidence of this. Her work has already brought significant awareness and is beginning to affect change which is simply more evidence of her greatness. When she easily could have attacked the Taliban and used her UN speech as a political tool to seek revenge against those that viciously attacked her, she instead chided them much like a mother would her children and used it as a platform to continue her battle for women. Is she the greatest feminist alive today? I’m not sure but make no mistake no one is more aware of the fact that more could be done for women’s rights than Malala, there will be no standing on her laurels for her.
Malala stands as a paragon of virtue and excellence, however one cannot let her passion, strength and maturity cloud us from the fact that above all else she is still a child, fragile and susceptible to very human fears. Much like past Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in her Reith lectures on liberty and dissent, her fragility and humanity comes through, making her all the more an inspirational figure.
The Noble peace prize has especially in the past few years been plagued with controversial and perhaps unworthy winners: a newly elected President with nothing to his record, and a regional organisation that failed to prevent genocide on its own continent 20 years previously, to name but a few. Malala’s win among other things will live up to the spirit and ideals that Alfred Nobel believed that we should aspire to when he started the prize.
Malala, for the rest of her life will no longer just be an ordinary girl, if she was ever just ordinary, she will be forever a symbol of our generation and its struggle against intolerance. She is role model for current and future generations of not just Pakistanis’ but for peoples all across the world. For some her story is evidence of the trouble that Pakistan faces today, in a time where many people’s perceptions of Pakistan are negative and closely associated with terrorism and instability it’s easy to see why. However when we look at Malala we look into the eyes of the majority of Pakistan, a vibrant modern tenacious country, where the people are dedicated to women’s rights and unafraid to voice their opinions, we see a people who are committed to democracy, the rule of law and social justice but we also see a country that is bleeding from its fight on the frontlines against extremism in the ‘War on terror’, hopefully more figures like Malala will come to the forefront in Pakistan and lead it out of war and into a bright new future.
By: Nadeem Shad