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Malala Yousafzai, a Fierce Defender of Education

  • VOA News

Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, center, was named a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. She's shown with escaped kidnapped school girls from Chibok in Abuja, Nigeria, July 14, 2014.

Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, center, was named a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. She's shown with escaped kidnapped school girls from Chibok in Abuja, Nigeria, July 14, 2014.

Her name has become shorthand for advocating girls’ right to education. Not surprisingly, when Malala Yousafzai was named co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, the Pakistani teen was at school.

The Nobel will “boost the courage of Malala and enhance her capability to work for the cause of girls’ education,” her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, told the Associated Press.

Malala, 17, is the youngest recipient of the peace prize. She shares the peace prize with Kailash Satyarthi, 60, an Indian children’s rights activist.

Until two years ago, the teen was living in in the Swati town of Mingora Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, studying at the girls school run by her father and writing a blog describing oppressive conditions under the Taliban. The extremist group opposes educating girls, contending they should remain at home.

In October 2012, Taliban gunmen boarded a school bus and shot her in the head and neck. They also wounded several other students.

“They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed,” Malala said in a United Nations address in July 2013. “… The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”

Malala received medical treatment in Britain. She, her parents and two brothers now live in Birmingham, where she attends high school. She learned about the award while in her chemistry class.

She vigorously continues to promote education, writing about it on her blog, “I Am Malala,” and in a memoir released last October, “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.”

She has used her celebrity to draw attention to a range of human rights violations. In July, she met with relatives of the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram, pledging to help free them. She also has campaigned on behalf of refugees in Syria.

Malala’s advocacy has brought a bounty of awards, including the European Parliament’s Sakharov Award.

Her nomination for the peace prize last year generated insulting messages on social media. As Reuters reported, she’s viewed “with a mixture of suspicion, fear and jealousy” in her native Swat valley.

In an interview last year with CNN’s Christiana Amanpour, Malala acknowledged she remained vulnerable to Taliban extremists. But, she said, “They cannot kill my cause.”

In September, Pakistani officials announced the arrest of 10 suspects in the attempted assassination of Malala, who recovered from grave injuries to become a globally recognized human rights figure. The suspects are expected to be tried in anti-terrorism courts, which have been criticized for releasing suspects because of an alleged lack of evidence.

Some information for this report was contributed by the Associated Press and Reuters.

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