This is a Statement which I helped to prepare for the AHRC. Many other people assisted but it is important, amongst other things, in that it portrays the commitment and dedication of the Pakistan Desk Officer, Baseer Naveed, to ensure international recognition for this brave young lady.
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
In this age where women and girl children do not receive the protection promised to them by the constitutions of so many countries the challenge for the human rights community in this century is to uplift their rights and lives. The struggle must include equality for women and justice for the violence perpetrated against them.
In her valiant determination for the right to education Malala has become a symbol of this tremendous struggle.
On Friday, October 11, 2013, the Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded to a global champion of peace and human rights. Malala Yousafzai, a 16 year-old-girl from the Swat Valley of Northeast Pakistan, the youngest ever nominee of the prestigious award, is a deserving front runner for the prize for her courage in standing up to the Pakistani Taliban and fighting for her right to be educated.
The committee consisting of notables from all over the world will meet to select the winner of this year's prize. The Asian Human Rights Commission as a regional organisation, on behalf of the human rights movement, strongly recommends Malala as the recipient for the Peace Prize. The human rights movement has not witnessed anyone of the caliber of Gandhi and Mandela since Malala Yousafzai first entered the arena to fight for her right to education. In doing so she stirred water that had remained stagnant for several decades. And the circles generated by the stirring of this stagnant water have engulfed the entire international community. This 16-year-old girl has seized the attention of scholars, academics, Nobel Laureates, journalists, writers, human rights activists and even the people at street level. For the youth of the world, especially those girls who are suppressed by primitive societies and conservative mindsets she has become a symbol and source of inspiration. Malala, at such a young age, must take the credit for having united the people of the world in the recognition of the extreme importance of the right to education as a basic step for human development.
The AHRC respects the other nominees and fully recognises the contributions they have made for world peace. However, the contribution of this young lady deserves particular attention due to the threats she has faced and continues to face. Awarding her this prize would acknowledge the inalienable right to education by girls and women of all ages.
Malala Yousafzai, coming from a country like Pakistan, which is torn by corruption, impunity, terrorism, and militancy, has become a beacon of hope to the millions of young Pakistani girls who want nothing more than to go to school. She began her journey in 2009 after being invited to write for a BBC blog entitled ‘Diary of a Pakistani School Girl’. She described her daily fears of going to school amid threats from the Taliban, generally considered to be most serious terrorists in the world. She and many other young students refused to bow to their demands to quit school and continued to risk their lives to attend classes.
Her life in Pakistan came to an abrupt halt when she was shot in the head on a school bus heading home on October 9, 2012. Her miraculous recovery and continued dedication to her cause have made her a household name. Rather than stopping her, the Taliban attack served only to amplify Malala’s message.
Continuing a campaign for the rights of young women to receive an education after an assassination attempt is laudable, and even more so at Malala’s young age. Malala recently celebrated her 16th birthday with an address to the UN. This month also marks the one year anniversary of her attempted murder. She follows in the steps of other civil leaders before her as she peacefully campaigns despite continued threats. She has been targeted and slandered by members of the Taliban and some sections of the Pakistani media, whom claim she is being used by the West to shame Pakistan.
Education in Pakistan is in dire need of reform, especially in regard to gender equality. The Education for All Global Monitoring Report claims that of the 5.1 million children out of school in Pakistan, about 63% of them are girls. The Education Index ranks Pakistan 113 out of 120 assessed countries. While factors including mismanagement of funds, corruption, and impunity all contribute to these poor figures, much of the education disparity can be accredited to draconian interpretation of Islamic law and the disvaluing of women.
Too often, Pakistani women are pulled out of school at a young age, often to prevent harassment, attend to household chores, or to be married off. Pakistan ranks 133 out of 135 overall in the 2010 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report, behind Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria. Pakistan placed 127 out of 135 in terms of Educational Attainment and dead last in Economic Participation and Opportunity.
The Nobel Peace Prize is unique in that while it recognizes previous accomplishments of the recipient, it indicates an ability to continue to fight for peace. Malala is undoubtedly the most recognized and celebrated of this year’s Nobel contenders. Awarding Malala with the Prize would have ramifications far beyond the West. She is a voice to many young students and women who remain in very precarious places around the world.
In her speech to the UN on her sixteenth birthday, Malala stated that “Education is the only solution.” She claims that problems can be stopped before they start with the education of children. If fathers and mothers were properly educated themselves, they would encourage their children to stay in school because education is a fundamental human right. Malala is peaceful not only in her desire not to shame those who shot her, but in her proactive approach to achieve peace through human development and dialogue.
Miss Yousufzai has been a catalyst and a symbol of inspiration in the struggle for women’s rights in the Muslim community and around the world. She is exemplary of how one small voice can make a difference. To award Malala with the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize would represent a milestone in the fight for women’s equality, bring attention to the severity of the problem in Pakistan, encourage proactive exchange, and give hope to the thousands of young women still living under the thumb of the Taliban and Islamic militancy.