I have had many heroes in my life. People that I looked up to. People I wanted to be like when I grew up. People who amazed me and inspired me. Never though has someone influenced me as much as a 16 year old girl from Pakistan.
Now in case you have never heard of her (I don’t know how that is possible at this point) but Malala is a heroine. Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan for speaking up about girls going to school; they shot her while she was walking home from school. She survived, and not only did she survive; she is changing the world with her story, her courage, and her amazing intelligence. She has motivated hundreds of thousands of young girls to get their education, and she has brought awareness to the WORLD about the importance of learning, how it needs to be available for ALL people, and to top it all off, she is now the poster child for peace and pacifism. She is 16. Think about that for a minute. Think about the 16 year old girls you know – could you see any of them standing up to the most feared terrorist group in the world AFTER they got shot in the head? Could you see them living a life of peace, forgiveness, and activism after such an event? I know I don’t have the heart to do it and I am an adult (sort of). I would be angry. I would be defiant. I would be depressed and bitter. Not Malala. She is answering violence with peace. Intolerance with acceptance. She is an inspiration for many – but for me, she has become my new role model. She is my new hero and she makes everyone I have ever looked up to pale in comparison (sorry Mom).
Malala was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and the good majority of the world thought she should win it. She should have in my view. Unfortunately she did not win the prize – it went to the Organization For The Prohibition Of Chemical Weapons; the group responsible for going in and dismantling chemical weapons in Syria. Once again, I am disappointed in the selection for the Nobel Peace Prize. I was disappointed when they selected President Obama to receive it also and I love him – I just don’t think he is the embodiment of peace as the prize suggests. I also don’t think a group whose job it is to get rid of weapons should win it either. While I am glad they are doing the job they are doing – they are not an inspiration to the world. They do not teach others about peace. They do not reflect the embodiment of peace – they are doing a job. A hard job and one that needs to be done, but a job none-the-less. The Nobel Peace Prize should not be a political prize, but a human one. They missed their own guidelines about who usually wins these prizes, “The winner is typically someone who is “an aspirational figure, someone who could potentially bring political or social change, even if it hasn’t happened yet.” I am not inspired by a group of people doing a hard job (in that case, groups who clear land mines should also be nominated for the prize), and the world isn’t listening to this group of people and learning how to turn tragedy into victory, or responding to violence with love, peace, and hope for the world. Yeah. They picked the wrong winner in my humble opinion. Malala doesn’t care that she didn’t win. In fact, she thought she was too young – that she hadn’t quite yet done enough to win such a prize.
Her response to the media about being nominated and not being selected for the prize shows exactly why she should have won it:
When I think of myself, I have a lot to do,” she said. “So I think that it’s really an early age, and I would feel proud when I would work for education, when I would have done something, when I would be feeling confident to tell people, Yes! I have built that school, I have done that teachers’ training, I have sent that much children to school. When I will be feeling proud. Then if I get the Nobel Peace Prize, I will be saying, Yeah, I deserve it, somehow. Still, I need to work a lot. I need to work a lot. And I must work a lot. Source
This kid isn’t in this fight for prizes or world recognition. She is in it to change the world. She is going to work to ensure that there is education for all – especially girls in countries like Pakistan that would hold them back. The Taliban actually took the time to respond to her “loss” of the prize by saying that, “We are delighted she didn’t win.” Delighted. I have some words for them too – but I’ll take my cue from Malala and focus not on their hate and ignorance, but on her strength and resolve. They also added, “She is not a brave girl and has no courage. We will target her again and attack whenever we have a chance.” Obviously the world knows that the Taliban does not know what courage or bravery is. There is no courage or bravery in shooting a little girl in the head. She has the Taliban running scared enough to continue to threaten her, and she has the courage and bravery to not give a care to them at all. They will target her, and she will speak louder. She is the most courageous and brave person I have ever heard of.
With the continued threats, Jon Stewart asked her what she would say to a Taliban member who might try to shoot her again and her response was simply epic, and left Jon Stewart and anyone who watched the interview speechless:
I started thinking about that, and I used to think that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But then I said, ‘If he comes, what would you do Malala?’ then I would reply to myself, ‘Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.’ But then I said, ‘If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.’ Then I said I will tell him how important education is and that ‘I even want education for your children as well.’ And I will tell him, ‘That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.’
Now go read that again.
What an insanely powerful perspective! What wisdom! What fearlessness! What courage! I am in awe of this young woman. She WILL change our world one little girl at a time if she has too. She will ensure that every child has access to education and books, because that is truly what will make our world a better place. She will look into the eyes of her attackers and wish for them that their sons and daughters can also be educated. That THEY can be educated. Simply amazing. There really aren’t words to adequately capture just how profound and wise Malala is. To top it all off – she is humble. I don’t know that she fully understands how many lives she has touched, and how much her ‘work’ has already impacted the world.
She didn’t need to win the Nobel Peace Prize to influence or be recognized by the global community – she did that all on her own.
I will end this post with the video of her interview with Jon Stewart. Watch it, and be amazed.