Malala Yousufzai, 13, beat 93 contestants from 42 countries to be nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize 2011. The class 8 student became the first Pakistani to be nominated for the prize, and if selected, she will be given the award by Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu.
The prize is presented to a child with exceptional capabilities whose remarkable acts and thoughts have made a difference in countering problems that affect children around the world. The prize was first launched at the Nobel Peace Laureates’ Summit 2005 and was initiated by the Dutch Organisation KidsRights.
The other four nominated for the award are: Liza (17) from Palestine, Michaela (17) from South Africa, Nikolay (17) from Armenia and Winfred (14) from Uganda. One of the five nominees will be rewarded with the prize on November 21 (today) and will become the seventh child to get the prize.
Malala was nominated because she alone raised her voice for girls’ education during the mayhem in Swat, in which girls were not only banned from attaining schools and colleges, but their schools were destroyed as well. She successfully used national and international media to let the world know about violations of their rights. She fought bravely for girls’ rights in the militancy-hit Swat, focusing on their right to education.
Desmond Tutu, in a press release announcing the nominees, stated, “The five nominated children are very brave since they are fighting for children’s rights in their country every day, sometimes even in dangerous situations. Children are the future, but often they are not heard, the Children’s Peace Prize gives a voice to these unheard voices.”
Malala said, “I am very happy to be nominated along with four other great girls. I am particularly inspired by Michaela who, despite her physical disability, fights for the rights of children with disabilities.”
She added that her nomination in the top five has “doubled her courage” as her cause is of great importance, “Irrespective of whether I win the prize I will continue my struggle. I hope to set up a vocational institute for the marginalised girls of this area so they can stand on their feet in the future.”
When asked why she started her campaign for girls’ rights, she said that the mayhem in Swat had “a huge impact on my mind”.
“I could not stand such exploitations; I started my campaign with the help of media and forums, which, with the help of God, was successfully completed.” Malala said she wanted the rest of the world to stop terming the people of Swat as terrorists as they were very peaceful and loving people.
Malala credited her father Ziauddin Yousufzai and her teachers for supporting her in her cause.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2011.