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PAKISTAN: A teenage Nobel Prize nominee leads the struggle for the education of girls

Contributors: Farzana Ali Khan
November 23, 2011
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Farzana Ali Khan


AHRC-ART-059-2011.jpgSWAT: Despite losing the Nobel Peace Laureate prize, Malalai Yousafzai, a grade 8 student from Gulkada, Mingora is determined to fight for the education of girls and fulfill the noble cause for which she has raised her voice.

Malalai was one of the five nominees chosen out of 98 children that were put forward by organizations and individuals from 42 different countries. 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, himself a Nobel Peace Laureate, announced the five nominees for the International Children’s Peace Prize 2011 in Cape Town on Tuesday. The prize is an initiative of the Dutch organization, Kids Rights and was launched during the 2005 Nobel Peace Laureates’ Summit chaired by Mikhail Gorbachev. 

The International Children’s Peace Prize is presented annually to a child, who's courageous or otherwise remarkable acts have made a difference in countering problems which affect children around the world. This year a child Michaela Mycroft (17) from South Africa was rewarded with the Children’s Peace Prize.

Malalai focused on the right to education, in particular for girls, which was banned during the Talibanisation in Pakistan. She dared to stand up for herself and other girls and used the national and international media to let the world know girls should also have the right to go to school.

When asked what was Malalai’s reaction after not winning the prize, she said, “I am happy for Michaela for winning the prize as she is a special child and is already working for the disabled children,” adding, in fact, I couldn’t even stop my tears while seeing Michaela receiving the prize as it was hard for her to hold the prize due to her being a disabled child.


She said, “Though I believe that all the five nominees were deserving children, still had the prize been awarded to any of them then I might have felt bad and a question would have arisen in my mind of being discriminated but now I am glad that none other than Michaela won it.”

“In fact, I still feel honored to be nominated for the award and for me it's just a beginning as real journey of achieving my goal has yet to be started,” she said adamantly adding that I have been encouraged and more determined rather.

She told the News, “I had realized the importance of education during the period when the militants had taken hold of the less developed area Swat and destroyed most of the girls schools and colleges,” she added that it was the time when she had made the commitment of raising voice for girls education.

“My aim is actually not only to promote girls education but also to establish a forum where kids who works as domestic servants could get education as I have come across many children who do want to go to schools but their families financial restraints have deprived them,” Malalai said.

To a query she said, “I believe that education is must for men and women both as it was only the outcome of ignorance on part of the people that our native town Swat was destroyed.” 

Malalai also conveyed a message to those parents through media who are reluctant to get their children educated out of fear of social oddities of the Pakhtun culture. “To me education is the only tool that makes a man civilized, a good citizen and help develop the Pashtun society,” she opined.

She attributed her recognition as a full support on part of her parents and thanked to the media for highlighting her goal as a determination.

Small in body but bold and confident, Malalai urged the government to re-establish the schools and colleges at its earliest in the area.

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About the author: Farzana Ali Khan is a journalist working for The News International. She has written the above article for the AHRC. She can be reached at farykhan@gmail.com.

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