BIRMINGHAM, England — Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, globally recognized for her role in the fight for girls’ rights to education, was one of two human rights activists awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. Malala and India’s Kailash Satyarthi—an activist who has fought against child labor—were celebrated by the United Nations for their mutual “struggle against the suppression of children and young people, and for the right of all children to education,” according to Nobel judges.
Malala, 17 years old, is now the youngest Nobel Peace Prize recipient in history. Her journey as an ardent supporter of girls’ rights to education began when she started to record her experiences as a young Pakistani schoolgirl under Taliban oppression in an anonymous diary. Malala wrote about her desire to remain in school and her views on girls’ education. So compelling were her sentiments that they were transferred over to BBC, where Malala’s anonymous blog was first published in 2009.
While Malala wrote, gaining global attention, the Taliban’s presence in northwest Pakistan intensified. The Taliban began to take increased control of the area in which Malala and her family lived, putting limitations on women’s access to schools and education, among other rights. Malala and her father, who runs a public school and is a leading education advocate as well, worked together to continue to speak out about the realities of the Taliban’s oppression as it pertained to females and education.
Malala and her father started to receive death threats from the Taliban, but that didn’t stop them from sharing their outspoken views. The young activist’s life was forever changed after she was featured in a documentary for the New York Times and after her identity as the BBC blogger was subsequently revealed. In 2011, Malala received Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize, a recognition that only heightened the tensions between Malala and the Taliban. In 2012, Taliban leaders voted to kill the then-fifteen-year-old.
On October 9, 2012—just two years before Malala would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize—a masked gunman boarded her school bus and asked for her by name. Malala was shot, a single bullet flying through her head, neck and shoulder. Two of her friends were also injured in the shooting. The shooting—which kept her in recovery for three months—received worldwide media attention, and strengthened Malala’s resolve to fight. Over 2 million people signed the Right to Education petition, which helped to initiate Pakistan’s first-ever right to education bill.
Following the shooting, Malala has worked tirelessly to bring to light the injustices that millions of girls around the world face when it comes to the right to an education. The Malala Fund was created to bring awareness to the social, political and economic problems that prohibit girls from receiving a formal education, and it encourages and empowers girls just like Malala to speak out.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations has stated that, “The United Nations will continue to stand with her against extremism and for the right of girls everywhere to be free of violence, to go to school and to enjoy their right to an education.” Malala has worked closely with the United Nations since the shooting, and the partnership will grow as she continues to fight for equal rights in education worldwide. Since being awarded the prize, Malala has stated that “this is really just the beginning” of her campaign.
For more information or to make a donation to Malala’s Fund, visit www.malala.org.
– Elizabeth Nutt