You are 15 years old. You live in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, an area that has been ravaged by the Taliban since 2008, but to you, it's home. You've been going to school, engaging with the material, and excited to be learning.
Then, you get shot in the head and your life is on the line. All for wanting to go to school.
Your name is Malala Yousafzai, and you have decided to make a difference.
Since the shooting, Malala has continued to speak out against those who seek to prevent girls from being educated. She has been honored by the UN and other international organizations. In fact, July 12, Malala's 16th birthday, has been declared Malala Day. She spent that day speaking at the UN Youth Assembly this past year, marking her first public appearance. She has most definitely shaped the world with her outreach and advocacy, increasing awareness about the problems facing women's education in the Swat Valley and around the world.
This Friday, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced, and Ms. Yousafzai is the youngest person to be nominated for the award. She deserves this award and more, for the following reasons:
-She proves that age is literally but a number.
Instead of being a bystander to the educational situation in the Swat Valley, Malala anonymously shared her diaries with and wrote for the BBC regarding her experiences in the Swat Valley since she was 11 years old, and has been speaking out about what happened to her since age 14. She shows all of us that it is never too early to start advocating for basic rights, such as education for women.
Her approach to the Taliban, as evidenced by her interview with Jon Stewart, shows how peace-loving she truly is.
When Jon Stewart asked Malala on the Daily Show how she reacted after finding out that she was being threatened by the Taliban, she mentioned not believing at first. After coming to terms with it, she would ask herself, "What would you do, Malala?" to which she responded that she might hit the Talib with a shoe. However, she later says that would make her no different from the Talib. She would explain to him how important education is and that she hopes for his children to be educated. Perhaps her bravest words are after she says this: "That's what I want to tell [the Talib]. Now do what you want."
She is selfless and kind-hearted in the most genuine sense.
Instead of speaking directly about the event that changed the course of her life, she focused more on the way the Taliban affected girls in Swat Valley and how she feared for her family's safety. She cared more for her father and her neighbors than she did for herself.
She teaches us not to take anything for granted.
As midterm season is wrapping up for American college students, we all breathe a sigh of relief until the next exam cycle. However, all of the studying, all of the sleepless nights, and the invaluable experience we get from learning would be impossible without our access to education. For wanting the same, Malala suffered a critical head injury. She reminds us that certain things that some of us take for granted, such as access to education, should certainly be cherished. She captured how important education became to her in her Jon Stewart interview: "We are human beings, and this is a part of our human nature that we don't learn the importance of anything until it's snatched from our hands."
She gives us hope for future generations.
Malala's fortitude and bravery signals to the rest of us that there is still hope for the future, especially if young people like Malala step up to the plate. It gives me hope that through peace, dialogue, and education, we can still change the world.
Friday is coming right around the corner, and I know the one name that I'll be cheering for.