Malala Yousafzai, Youngest Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Adds to Her Achievements and Expectations
By Jodi Kantor – October 10, 2014
The New York Times
Though Malala Yousafzai is 17, she does not use Facebook or even a mobile phone lest she lose focus on her studies. She spent her summer vacation flying to Nigeria to campaign for the release of girls kidnapped by the extremist Islamist group Boko Haram, but also worrying about her grades, which recently took a worrisome dip. She confronted President Obama about American drone policy in a meeting last year, but finds it difficult to befriend her fellow students in Birmingham, England.
“I want to have fun, but I don’t quite know how,” she wrote in the edition of her autobiography for young readers.
On Friday, Ms. Yousafzai became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize — grouped in the same pantheon as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa, and yet still a student at Edgbaston High School for Girls, where she was summoned out of her chemistry class to hear the news.
Ms. Yousafzai began campaigning for girls’ education at the age of 11, three years before she was shot by the Taliban. She was so young that some observers questioned how well equipped a child of that age could be to put her own safety on the line and commit to a life of activism. The prize she received on Friday validates what she has taken on, but also underscores the disproportionate expectations that trail her: Can she truly influence the culture of her home country of Pakistan, which she cannot even visit because of threats to her safety, and where many revile her as a tool of the West? Ms. Yousafzai may be an Anne Frank-like figure who defied terror, showed extraordinary courage and inspires hope, but how much can one teenager accomplish?
“Can she actually create systemic change at this young age? Can she create a movement? Because she doesn’t have that kind of infrastructure in Pakistan at the moment,” said Vishakha Desai, a professor of international relations at Columbia, said in a telephone interview.
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