The famous Muslim girl that stood up to the Taliban and lived to tell about it became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize this morning, along with the first Indian recipient since Mother Terea, Kailash Satyarthi.
This courageous and amazing young woman began fighting for children’s and women’s rights when she was only 11 years old. Growing up in Mingora, one of the most conservative regions in Pakistan, children and women were often singled out for punishment by the Taliban.
In January 2009, the extremists issued an order that no school should educate females. To enforce this terrorist belief, Taliban members harassed residents daily, threatening to blow up girls’ schools, and ordering women into stifling burqas. Writing under an alias as an online blogger, Malala described in detail the horrors endured at the hands of the militants enforcing this order. The young girl had to hide her books under her bed, or risk facing punishment from extremists. “I was scared of being beheaded by the Taliban because of my passion for education,” she told CNN in 2011. A very real fear as terrorists had beheaded local officials and burned schools in the two years prior, in retaliation for losing the town from their twisted, strict version of Islamic law, eventually forcing 2 million people out of their homes in the Swat Valley.
Malala’s father taught at the school she attended. Malala had been speaking out in TV interviews regarding the importance of education for girls, and against the brutality she saw exhibited by terrorists. The young girl faced many threats on her life, but didn’t let that stop her.
On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, riding the bus home through Swat Valley with fellow schoolmates, the terrorist group followed through on their death threats. Demanding that the other girls on the bus tell them which one was Malala, one of the extremists started shooting. He wounded three girls, including Malala. She was hit in the head directly above her left eye, grazing her brain, and once in the neck. The bus driver took her to her uncle’s, where he recalls the young girl being in excruciating pain and unable to stop moving her arms and legs.
Rushing her to the hospital, doctors quickly removed the bullets from her head and neck, removing part of her skull as well to relieve the pressure on her brain caused by swelling. She was unresponsive for three days following the surgery. She was placed in a medically induced coma to make it easier to move her between hospitals before finally moving to Britain.
One week after the shooting, Malala was up and walking around. Miraculously, she suffered no brain or nerve damage. Less than three months after the attack on her life, she received surgery to repair the damage to her skull. She now lives in England with her family, where she attends school and continues to campaign for children and women’s rights and education.
At 17 years of age, she is the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She received this prize in conjunction with Kailash Satyarthi, a former electrical engineer from India. Satyarthi gave up his prestigious career to forefront a global movement to end child slavery, developing a model for their education and rehabilitation. His efforts have led to more than 80,000 children being rescued from bondage, trafficking, and exploitative labor.
Young as Malala is, this is not the first prize the amazing young woman has won, nor is it her first nomination for the Nobel Prize. She is also the recipient of the Amnesty International Award, the International Children’s Peace Prize, and the European Parliament’s Freedom of Thought Sakharov Prize. Last year she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but didn’t win it.
Though efforts to silence Malala haven’t worked, she still receives threats of violence and death from Islamic extremists. After writing a book titled, “I Am Malala,” she received a number of death threats, and the extremists also threatened to blow up any bookstore that sold it.
Even in the face of death, she remains one of the best role models for women everywhere. She will not be silenced. “Through my story I want to tell other children all around the world that they should stand up for their rights, they shouldn’t wait for someone else. Their voices are more powerful.”
Only 40% of adult women in Malala’s home country can read and write. In an interview with the media this morning, Malala continued her words of inspiration: “This award is for all those children who are voiceless, whose voices need to be heard. They have the right to receive quality education. They have the right not to suffer from child labor, not to suffer from child trafficking. They have the right to a happy life.”
The two were awarded the prize “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education,” said the Norwegian Nobel Committe. Also saying that it “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.”
Malala said this award gives a “message of people to love, between India and Pakistan, and between different religions and we both support each other.”
Satyarthi had this to say regarding the momentous occasion: “I’ve always said India is mother of hundreds of problems, but it is always mother of millions of solutions. We Indians are able to find solutions not only for us but also for the world.”