By Danny McCarthy, Staff Writer
Malala Yousafzai has become to youngest person to ever be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17. But if you’ve been following her story, the Peace Prize is not even the pinnacle of her achievements.
At age 11, her diary was published anonymously, detailing her struggle as a girl trying to get an education under the black shadow of the Taliban.
At 12, she began a campaign to insure girls’ education, after participating in a documentary about Taliban rule in the Valley of Swat, where Malala lived.
At 14, she was shot by a Taliban gunman on a school bus and declared a target of the Taliban for “promoting secular education.”
At 15, she was released from a hospital in England after a prolonged recovery to discover that she had become an international symbol of education reform and equality for girls.
At 17, she won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Malala has accomplished more in six years than most people can even hope to do in a lifetime. And she’s not done yet. Days after winning the Peace Prize, Malala is working with Code.org to encourage girls to do an hour of coding every day.
The idea behind Code.org is to expand “participation in computer science by making it available in more schools” and to increase “participation by women and underrepresented students of color,” according to the non-profit’s mission statement. Besides Malala, the organization has backing from President Obama, various celebrities and politicians, as well as Microsoft and Google. Code.org works well with Malala’s causes. It seeks to make coding and computer science a mainstream school subject by encouraging people to do one hour of coding a day.
Malala has become a champion for ending discrimination against girls. Her strength and eloquence shook Pakistan, and after the assassination attempt, she became an icon across the globe. The United Nations began a petition in her name, with the slogan, “I am Malala.” The petition aims to call upon Pakistan to deliver education to every child in its country, call upon every country to outlaw discrimination against girls, and call upon the organizations of the world to work and put the world’s 61 million out-of-school children into education.
Malala has not shied away from the public eye after nearly losing her life. Instead, that experience has pushed her forward. In her first public appearance after the shooting, she spoke at the UN, saying, “The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born.” On her newly established public stage, Malala has continued to be an activist. On her 16th birthday, she spoke at the UN to call for worldwide access to education. In July of this year, she spoke at the Girl Summit in London. And on Oct. 10, she won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Malala is a powerful example of how influential young people can be. And in a world of social media activism, it is become easier for young voices to be heard. The Nobel Prize committee recognizes this, saying, “It is a prerequisite for peaceful global development that the rights of children and young people be respected.”
Malala knows the value of getting an education. She understands that schooling is the only way to empower the next generation of leaders, strong individuals who just need to be given the tools for change, the impetus for global evolution. Malala represents the strength of an largely untapped demographic: young people who are just as passionate about change as their elders, but who need education to become captains of that change.