Global Thinking: Pakistani heroine challenges Taliban, loses Peace Prize

Illustration by Victoria Courtney
Illustration by Victoria Courtney

No one has the right to stop any person from learning. This is what a 16-year-old girl from Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, believes. She chose to stand up for women’s education in the Swat Valley. The Taliban shot her for standing up for what she believes.

A bullet couldn’t stop Yousafzai. If anything, it was a speed bump in her mission to advocate women’s rights in Pakistan. In January 2009, the Taliban stated girls would not be allowed to attend school. In February, all schools for girls were shut down.

For Yousafzai, it started before 2009. In 2008 she spoke out against the Taliban for their stance against women’s education, prompting the BBC to give her a blog about the daily life of a schoolgirl in Pakistan.

Yousafzai not only stood back up after being shot, she marched on. As an advocate for women’s rights and education, she was a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize this year and continues to stand defiantly in the face of the Taliban. She has recently appeared on CNN and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. She also met with President Barack Obama and told him to “end drone strikes.”

Keep in mind that this is a 16-year-old. The 16-year-olds I know don’t give a damn about their education — much less take a bullet to the head to defend it. We take what we have for granted: a desk to sit at, a textbook to learn from, a teacher to guide us. If you can’t find inspiration to make the most of your education from Yousafzai, then I don’t know who or what will. She should be a role model for every young scholar.

Taliban spokesperson Shahdullah Shahid said the Taliban was thrilled Yousafzai didn’t win the Nobel Prize, but their pot shots dwindle and miss at this point. They may have brought her down once, but they can’t stifle her message. The voices of Pakistani women are being heard because of her tenacity. Nothing the Taliban can say or do can stop such a voice.

A 16-year-old who took a bullet to the face rose above them and said she forgives the Talib who shot her. While that in itself deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, The Taliban saying they’re glad she didn’t get it isn’t winning.

“If you hit a Talib, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty. You must fight others through peace, and through dialogue and through education,” Yousafzai said on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

The interviews she’s done, and the words she’s shared with the world, will resonate for a long time to come. To think someone so young could be so wise really is astounding. She’s not just an activist; she’s a human rights hero. It’s a shame she didn’t win the Nobel Prize. But in the eyes of the world, she’s doing more to promote peace than any 16-year-old has ever done.



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