Normally I pay about as much attention to the Nobel Prizes as I do to Miley Cyrus’s fashion advice. However, this time around, I had no choice but to make an exception. A Friday press release from the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). While I am sure that the OPCW does excellent work, one nominee seemed like the better choice: Malala Yousafzai.
In case you don’t remember Malala, here’s a quick refresher. In October 2012, members of the Taliban boarded Malala’s school bus looking to retaliate for posts on her blog. Think about how ridiculous that sounds for a second. She had been posting anonymously for BBC about a typical school day for a 15-year-old girl in Pakistan. She discussed bombings, Taliban laws and even her friends migrating to safer locations. Her thoughts had garnered so much attention that the Taliban tracked down her school bus and attacked her.
Malala recovered and has since become a symbol of the women’s education movement in the Middle East, hoping to limit the Taliban’s influence over education in the area. Can we talk about how awesome that is? She’s 16. I don’t know about you, but when I was that age my biggest concern was whether or not Grey’s Anatomy was going to be renewed for another season.
She recently started a project called the Malala Fund, which, according to its website, seeks to give educational opportunities to the 600 million girls in the developing world.
Her perspective on the world is invaluable and I cannot help but sit here in awe.
In an interview with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show from Oct. 10, she said, “The girls are very brave. [We] were just 11 or 12, we spoke up for our rights to every media channel, every newspaper that we could … We were raising our voices. We were speaking up for our rights.”
These ideas are nothing short of revolutionary, which brings me back to the Nobel Peace Prize for a brief moment. In the previously cited press release, the committee wrote, “Recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have again been put to use, have underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons … By means of the present award to the OPCW, the Committee is seeking to contribute to the elimination of chemical weapons.”
Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like the Nobel Committee is trying to shape international policy of the future instead of reviewing past actions. While the OPCW has been crucial to disarmament of chemical weapons, they seem to be more symbolic victors than anything else. Instead of honoring the efforts of those who are trying to make the world a better place, they look like they are attempting to blow the political climate in a certain direction. It’s noble (no pun intended) and valiant, but is it really the best evaluation? Just food for thought.
Malala changed the face of women’s rights in the Middle East. I am almost certain of this. She has the ideas wrapped in idealism with an internationally heard voice. She has the most important components for her success, and she hasn’t even graduated high school yet!
Education will be the most important human right in the next century. Education has the power to vastly improve individual lives and national economies. Education can shift the balance of power in the countries where women’s voices are not yet heard. Education will be the point where nations either fall or triumph. Developing nations where resources are almost as scarce as women’s access to said resources are in serious need of the world’s attention.
Yes, Malala is one girl in a world of 7 billion people. However, she is bringing her experiences and ideals to a table that hasn’t heard from that perspective yet. Perhaps she will have the key to unlocking all of the untapped potential the world has overlooked. In a poignant address to the UN after her attack last year, Malala said, “The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions, but nothing changed … I am the same Malala … My hopes are the same. I am here to speak up for the right of education of every child. I want education for the sons and the daughters of all the extremists — especially the Taliban.”
Sara Ryan is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences studying political science and math. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.