Last Friday, the Nobel committee awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a small Netherlands-based group backed by the United Nations that has been tasked to oversee the destruction of chemical weapons within Syria’s borders. While the OPCW has contributed enormously to restoring peace in Syria, the award should have gone to Malala Yousafzai, a 16 year old girl who has spent nearly a third of her life campaigning for girls’ education.
The OPCW is an established international organization supported by the United Nations. Yousafzai, on the other hand, had no audience; her actions were all her own and her outspokenness for her own benefit, until the the world realized it ought to listen. At age 11, Yousafzai began publicly advocating for the education of young Muslim girls in her native country of Pakistan after the Taliban forbade them from attending school in Swat Valley, where she lived. A motivated and active child, she corresponded with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) via handwritten letters and developed her own blog.
Nothing could dampen Yousafzai’s dedication. She received threats from Taliban insurgents, becoming a target for assassination. Little more than a year ago, an assassination attempt by the militant group as she was riding the bus home from school left her with gunshot wounds to the head, neck and shoulders. In spite of such hardship and the unusual circumstance of her work, Yousafzai continues to fight for women’s education. In June of this year, she spoke before the United Nations, and she has even started her own non-profit, the Malala Fund, to support girls’ education internationally.
It is for her relentless pursuit of both universal education and women’s rights that Yousafzai deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. Her passion and determination to spread equality and opportunity has been recognized worldwide: the British Prime Minister called her “an icon of courage and hope,” she won the 2013 International Children’s Peace Prize and she has spoken with United States President Barack Obama on the morality of drone strikes. Despite suffering at the hands of the Taliban, Yousafzai remains an ardent pacifist. On Tuesday October 8, as a guest on “The Daily Show,” Yousafzai amazed host Jon Stewart by saying to “take a shoe and hit [a Talib],” was to stoop to his level, adding that she would place women’s education as a priority above even her own life.
While the OPCW and Yousafzai have both contributed enormously to restoring peace in the Middle East, Yousafzai has ultimately made a greater impact and thus is more deserving of the Nobel Prize. The OPCW has merely focused on mitigating the consequences of the Syrian Civil War, an existing conflict. Yousafzai’s efforts, on the other hand, have broader, longer-lasting implications. She is inventing solutions to fill the void created by a generation of oppressive and misogynistic leadership in the Middle East. Her work and outreach will affect girls’ and women’s lives around the world for years to come. Still, Yousafzai is young, and, with or without the Nobel Peace Prize, there is no doubt that she shows promise as a truly global leader.