Malala is youngest Nobel Prize winner ever

Two years ago the Taliban tried to kill her. But now her campaigning spirit means she shares the world’s most famous prize, and she is still only 17. What next for this amazing teenager?

Like many teenagers the 17-year-old Pakistani school girl Malala Yousafzai hates getting up in the morning, and likes listening to Justin Bieber, telling jokes and eating ice cream.

But in the past two years, she has also had tea with Angelina Jolie and skyped with world leaders, and Madonna has dedicated a song to her, all because of her incredible efforts to promote education for girls and combat religious extremism.

Last Friday morning, she added another extraordinary achievement to her long list, by becoming the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Fittingly for a girl who has campaigned tirelessly for female education, Malala was in a chemistry lesson at her school in Birmingham when she received the news. She shares the £690,000 prize with the Indian children’s rights activist, Kailash Satyarthi.

This in itself is an important gesture, as Malala is a Pakistani Muslim, while Satyarthi is an Indian Hindu. The two nations are nuclear-armed adversaries, and this week witnessed renewed hostilities along the border of the disputed region of Kashmir.

Malala rose to international attention in 2012. She was living in Pakistan’s Swat Valley under the control of the Taliban, who banned girls from going to school and frequently blew up schools. Malala, undeterred, began a campaign for the rights of girls everywhere to attend school.

It nearly cost her her life. One day, Taliban gunmen forced their way on to her school bus and fired three shots at her, seriously wounding her in the head. She was later flown to the UK, where, after extensive surgery, she made a remarkable recovery.

Since then she has spent her 16th birthday addressing the United Nations, her 17th in Nigeria ‘to show solidarity’ with the schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram militants, and she has also found time to meet Barack Obama, urging him to send books and pens, rather than drones, to Pakistan.

Eyes on the prize

Some are sceptical about what Malala’s win will achieve. Repressive regimes have cracked down on activists who have received the award in the past. Malala can’t even return to her home to Pakistan, such is the threat to her safety there. Then there are those who say she is merely a tool for the West, and that she has been turned into a ‘cuddly caricature’ to suit Western views of Pakistan.

But as the world looks on in horror at so-called Islamic State and Boko Haram, Malala’s message of hope is more pertinent than ever, others argue. Nor should she be dismissed as a mere puppet; this is the girl who survived an assassination attempt to lead a powerful international movement. Malala has expressed her desire to be ‘a good politician’ — few would doubt her determination.

You Decide

  1. Was it the right decision to award Malala the Nobel Peace Prize?
  2. Why is it important that girls all over the world receive an education?


  1. In groups, write a list of ways in which your life would be different if you couldn’t go to school.
  2. Do some research and find out other recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. Were they worthy winners?

Some People Say...

“The best way to solve problems and to fight against war is through dialogue.’Malala Yousafzai”

What do you think?

Q & A

What has the reaction been in Pakistan?
It’s been mixed. On Friday, Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister, congratulated Malala, calling her the ‘pride of Pakistan'. But other right-wing, conservative groups there, remain ‘suspicious’ of her. Some even believe her shooting was a hoax or that it was a conspiracy by the CIA.
Who else was in the running to win to Nobel Peace Prize?
Other favourites were Pope Francis, the Argentine head of the Catholic Church who has been a champion of the poor and victims of armed conflict, Novaya Gazeta, the campaigning Russian newspaper that remains a lone independent media voice critical of President Vladimir Putin, and Edward Snowden, the former CIA administrator who leaked information from the National Security Agency in 2013.

Word Watch

Malala was named after an Afghan national heroine who rallied Pashtun tribesmen to fight against the British in 1880.
Kailash Satyarthi
Satyarthi has long campaigned against child labour and rescued tens of thousands of children from hazardous work environments, where they are treated little better than slaves. Before he won the Nobel, he had 100 followers on Twitter. Since Friday that number is over 30,000 and rising.
An Islamic fundamentalist political movement that enforces a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law.
Boko Haram
The Nigerian militant Islamist group is fighting to overthrow the Nigerian government and create an Islamic state. The words ‘boko haram’ translate as ‘Western education is forbidden.’
Since 2004, the US has used drones — remotely piloted aircraft — to target terrorists in Pakistan. The US has faced heavy criticism from both home and abroad for its use of drones in the region.


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