All the eminent people who have been honored with this coveted peace prize were recognized for their relentless, tireless contribution to the world. The late Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a Roman Catholic nun who cared for the poor and sick in India for more than 30 years, won the Nobel Peace Prize. Similarly Albert Schweitzer who spent his lifetime working in West Africa won the Nobel Peace Prize for his medical and humanitarian work, and Aung Sang Suu Kyi won it after decades of human rights protest in Myanmar. Even our very own Kailash Satyarthi, got the award after spending decades rescuing children from child labour.
Malala, on the other hand, has just emerged as an icon for the rights of girls in an Islamic society. She has just begun her journey for advocating the rights of girls. She has only become the face of the movement. She has yet to achieve a milestone in the struggle, in the noble cause of woman’s fundamental rights.
No doubt, Malala had a tough ordeal. She was only eleven when the Talibans took over her hometown. The Swat region in Northwestern Pakistan and its valleys became the epicentre of terror and fear. Their imposition of ban on girls education gave Malala her voice and she stood up to become the voice of few handful girls of the Valley. As Gul Makai, Malala started writing for BBC Urdu. She wrote about her life as a young girl who wanted to go to school. She expressed her opinion, her limitations, and the tales of horror under the Taliban rule.
By becoming the voice of BBC, it gave her the confidence and she began her campaign for girls’ education. She became so vocal that the Talibans considered her a threat to the society and she knew this. She had expressed her fear of being killed by Taliban in her blog entries. And on October 9, 2009, Taliban gunmen shot Malala in the head and neck, while she was returning from school.
Her injuries were fatal. She was flown down to the Queens Hospital in Birmingham and was operated on. She fought hard and is a survivor now. Since October 2009, Malala and her family has settled in the UK. After recovering she went back to school but not like any other 14-year-old. As the Time magazine calls her, she had now become a ‘global emblem’.
But all that has changed now. The Noble peace prize committee has called her a crusader against extremism. She has indeed come a long way. She started as a blogger but is now the author of the best-selling memoir. Young Malala’s dreams too have changed. When she addressed her first set of audience, a handful of journalists of the local Press Club in Peshawar, she wanted to become a doctor then. Today when she addresses world leaders, diplomats, media personnel, she does it like a pro. She now wants to become a politician. And she clearly has it in her. It's visible in her demeanor and her speech. She showcased the political astuteness, the aptitude when she addressed the UN. She confronted and critiqued President Obama about American drone policy, “Send pens and books instead of soldiers and weapons”.
And on Friday s conference after winning the Nobel, she spoke in three languages from the heart. The firmness, the eloquence she displayed was a combination of a teenager who has a vision and a diplomat who has a platform. But being an icon, an emblem is one thing, and the contribution to a cause in an inspiring way is quite another. Therefore, the Nobel Peace Committee’s decision to award young Malala the Nobel peace prize is more symbolic politically than peace worthy. Their decision to award Malala this year comes at a time when women in Iraq, Syria and Nigeria are being targeted by the ISIS, Boko Haram, with repression and violence. Women are being captured from their houses, raped and tortured. Young girls are being kidnapped and sold in open market. In this scenario, the Nobel Peace committee has presented her as an international brand ambassador against the Islamist Extremism. Not only that, but by awarding the Nobel Peace Prize so early in her journey, it has put her life more at risk.
The ordeal really begins now. Getting the Peace Prize makes her journey difficult and questionable. Will getting the Nobel Peace Prize help her in any way to advance the cause which she has espoused? Will Malala be able to live up to the expectation? Or will she now continue to remain just a pawn, a mere symbol? Will she be able to really influence in bringing about an iota of change in Pakistan or elsewhere in the world?
By getting Nobel Peace Prize at this young age, she might be looked upon as a beckon of hope, a symbol of change for the girls but her story in its own has not and cannot change the society. Many in Pakistan consider her a West propaganda fulfilling machine. The world will now look upon her how she really contributes to that cause for which she had become a face. Malala Yousafzai has a long road ahead of her.