Friday, October 17, 2014

The Significance of This Year's Nobel Peace Prize

            The world is buzzing about 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai, the youngest person to win a Nobel Prize of any kind. Having grown up in Pakistan under Taliban occupation, Malala is no stranger to hardship, but she definitely doesn’t want to get used to it. In 2008 she started speaking out about girls’ education in Pakistan. Since then, she has gained fame around the world for her advocacy for peace, women’s rights, and universal education. In October 2012, the Taliban tried to assassinate her. Yet, she didn’t even let a gunshot wound to the head stop her and she has continued her advocacy since her recovery. Just this week, the Nobel committee gave her the highest form of recognition: a Nobel Peace Prize. She is not the sole recipient of the prize—she is sharing it with Kailash Satyarthi, a 60-year-old man from India who is fighting to end child labor.

            Malala’s message has evolved over the years. She eloquently ties together the call for girls’ education to wider ideals of human rights and peace as she tears down stereotypes of her culture and religion. In her speeches, she talks about how the Taliban use the name of Islam to gain power and wealth, when in fact the religion is based on peace and equality. This is part of the reason why girls need to be educated. Giving girls the power of pen and paper gives them the power to fight tyranny and advocate for what is right. The reason why the Taliban is preventing girls’ education isn’t because of religion or culture, but because they are afraid of what will happen when girls can start speaking out. Their fear is justified. Malala is fortunate to have been educated by her father and she has used the power of writing and speech to make her voice heard. We can only imagine what can happen when every girl can speak as loudly as she can.

            The Nobel committee made a wise choice when they chose Malala for the prize. She links women’s rights to human rights so strongly that no one can doubt the need to achieve gender equality. Yet they send another message by pairing Malala with Kailash Satyarthi. The contrast in their age and gender shows that anyone can fight for equal rights. Furthermore, it is also no mistake that they selected someone from Pakistan and someone from India.  The two countries have been in conflict since their bloody partition in 1947. Already the two recipients are showing how the fight for peace transcends conflict and differences.

The Nobel committee is serious about peace and equality, and their decision to award these two individuals the Nobel Peace Prize is bringing us one step closer. Hopefully this prize helps both recipients gain support so they can continue their fight for human rights and equality.
-Gia Rowley