Malala Yousufzai on December 10 made history as she became the world’s youngest winner of the Nobel peace prize award. Aged only 17, the teenager from Swat collected the peace prize in Oslo alongside Indian child rights campaigner Kailash Satyarthi, 60, who has worked tirelessly to rescue children from abusive situations and to raise awareness about children held as slaves. There was symbolism, too, in the fact that the two recipients of the award belonged to different generations and to two neighbouring countries fiercely hostile to each other. Malala addressed this point as she called for both countries to make education their priority.
While Malala seems to have received only limited recognition for her achievement at home, where controversy has been generated both about her right to the award and her actions, the girl, shot by a Taliban activist two years ago as she returned from school, has been applauded by the world. Certainly, there is a great deal that is immensely uplifting about her call, repeated in Oslo, for every child in the world to be granted a pen and notebook. She also spoke about how this right was held back by people who were “indoctrinated but not educated”. Malala, unselfishly, has also attempted to share her moment of glory with other young women from around the world, with five joining her at the ceremony. Those present were Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Riaz from Swat, both injured in the attack on Malala; Kainat Soomro, a teenaged rape victim from Sindh who has been bravely battling for justice, and Mezon Almellehan from Syria and Amina Yusuf from Nigeria — both education activists in their countries.
There is much that is uplifting about the award for Malala, a young woman who spoke of serving her country in the future. We hope she will one day be able to safely return to it and undertake this mission. Till then, we need to learn to acknowledge her achievement without inhibition and look ahead to a day when every girl in Pakistan is able to attend school, acquire an education and stand as an equal citizen in society.