The fact that Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize may be a sign of progress for our entire world. Then again, it may not be. Yousafzai is being recognized for her advocacy to children’s rights in education for her country of Pakistan.While it is certainly a huge achievement, it does not come without scrutiny. After all, the 17-year-old was shot in the head two years ago allegedly by the Taliban for displaying such advocacy.
Malala Yousafzai is known for her contribution to young girls gaining an education in Pakistan when a few years ago, she shared information about life under Taliban rule, or those accused of performing extreme attacks against society. The Taliban then took responsibility for attempting to assassinate Yousafzai while she was on her way home from school.
Recently, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to children’s right to an education in places where young girls are likely to have none. Although reports stated she was modest in the news of such an honor, Yousafzai is accepting the award alongside Kailash Satyarthi, a child-rights activist in India.
The Wall Street Journal reported the Norwegian Nobel Committee wanted to bring awareness to child labor and “limits imposed on women and girls by radical Islamists.” The honor comes at a time when India and Pakistan relations are flaring up, but according to Thorbjorn Jagland, chairman of the Nobel committee, the prize has nothing to do with current conflicts.
Malala Yousafzai being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize may be a sign of progress, or it might not be since attacks are currently taking place in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, to name a few. Extremist militants have allegedly attacked numerous facilities by suicidal or vehicular bombings which kill tens of people on what appears to be a weekly basis. In fact, over 200 girls were kidnapped in Nigeria earlier this year in April allegedly by extreme Islamic militants known as Boko Haram.
Yousafzai was attacked for reasons similar to why these 200 girls were kidnapped – beliefs that Western civilization should not impact certain cultural or religious values and societies, particularly those located in and around the Asian and African continent. Although Yousafzai challenged these beliefs when she stood up for her right to an education by simply going to school, she did so at the risk of losing her life.
Yousafzai was struck in the head as she boarded a bus home from school. She was treated at a hospital in England and after many reported surgeries, she survived her injuries. She continues to go to school and was reportedly in a chemistry class when she was told about her recognition for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Issues revolving around these types of child rights appear to be happening all over the world, particularly towards that of child labor. For instance, India, Thailand, and Mexico are known to use child labor. Unfortunately, there are no real laws or enforcement to prevent its use. Instead of the possibility of gaining an education, most children located in these types of areas are sent to work as young as six years old.
In many poor countries, it is often girls who have the least chance to earn an education. Part of the reason appears to be due to cultures which view the birth of a girl as having no real benefit. Yousafzai appears to be changing that notion, not only because she is currently gaining an education, but because her father also believed her birth was not a mistake.
In a TED Conference which took place around March 17, 2014, Ziauddin Yousafzai spoke on his view of the birth of his daughter, Malala. Not only had he said he felt honored to have a daughter, he spoke about how he did not “clip her wings.” He mentioned how he went against social norms to get Malala an education.
Malala Yousafzai getting the Nobel Peace Prize does not come without criticism. According to Think Progress, critics in Pakistan such as Tariq Khattak, editor at the Pakistan Observer think her motives are more political than a demonstration of activism. The Taliban have reportedly threatened to assassinate her if she returns to Pakistan, and reaction from Pakistanis on Twitter appear to be mixed.
Although some people may naturally criticize the success of another and because traditions often hold value among many families of a society or religion, Yousafzai’s Nobel Peace Prize may be seen as either a conversion of sorts, or an achievement of development. She may have politically challenged her environment, but ultimately, she stood up to a young girl’s right to an education, particularly where it is unlikely to occur due to cultural values.
Malala Yousafzai gaining the Nobel Peace Prize is a sign of progress for various nations because Yousafzai demonstrates that a child, even a young girl can defy odds set by social norms. Although her life was at-risk for making a political statement, it was a challenge to a system known for the oppression of young girls and women. If a child can demonstrate ambition to defy odds against him or her for wanting an education, Yousafzai has been that demonstration, and holds a Nobel Peace Prize to back it up.
Opinion By Liz Pimentel