A 17 year old girl posed a question to an audience: “If one man can destroy everything, then why can’t one girl change it?” This question was the culmination of efforts towards changing barriers towards education equality, and the audience were readers of Malala Yousafzai’s book, “I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.” On Oct. 10 2014, Yousafzai became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts towards fighting for women’s rights to education.
“I remember hearing about it from the news or reading it one morning,” first-year Codee Vogler said. “It was obviously well deserved because I remember hearing about how this girl my age who was on the news talking about how girls where she lived were not allowed to attend schools. And the next time I hear about it in the news, she’s won a Nobel Peace Prize.”
This is not the first time Yousafzai has been recognized for her efforts. Among others, Yousafzai was also awarded the National Youth Peace Prize and the Simone de Beauvoir Prize.
Yousafzai, whose name was spoken in households across the world, was born and raised in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a province in Pakistan and an area where the Taliban had been known to ban girls from attending schools.
“When I hear her speak, I can resonate and I can relate to what she’s saying,” first-year Lorraine Cruz said. “There are these general attitudes towards women and a lot of these rigid gender roles still exist in a lot of cultures. To hear someone speak about an issue that I feel a lot of people can relate to is refreshing. It’s nice to see someone gain recognition for what they do and to be able to look at them and pin point and think ‘This is someone who is talking about something that affects me.’”
Yousafzai wrote on her experiences growing up under the Taliban influence in a blog post that was published on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) where it gained national attention and brought instant attention to the Yousafzai’s experiences growing up.
Yousafzai was soon speaking on a much larger platform, in interviews, documentaries and even published work.
On Oct. 9, 2012, Yousafzai boarded her school bus and was greeted with a gun to her forehead. Three shots were fired at Yousafzai resulting in her hospitalization and a national outcry.
Despite this setback, Yousafzai progressed. Her hospitalization and influence on the media resulted in the United Nation’s petition, made in her name. This petition lead to Pakistan’s first Right to Education bill, the first of its kind for the country.
After Yousafzai was back to health, her influence in the media progressed. Yousafzai’s voice expanded from solely the basis of education equality and instead as a voice that humanized and gave a perspective to someone who was othered by the media.
“Instead of sending guns, send books. Instead of sending weapons, send teachers,” Yousafzai said in an interview concerning violence in the Middle East and the involvement of the United States.
Not only has Yousafzai made history as the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, but she has also became the only Pakistani in history to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. Yousafzai has plans to donate the prize money to rebuilding schools in the Gaza strip.
“I’m proud that I am the first Pakistani and I am honored that I am the first young woman or the first young person to be receiving this award,” Yousafzai said. “I’m thankful to my father for not clipping my wings and letting me fly.”