It was not the acclaim of an international prize that motivated a 11-year-old Pakistani girl to oppose the Taliban's decision to ban education for girls in her neighborhood. Malala Yousufzai, now 13, attracted attention from around the world and focused it on the sorry state of affairs in the Swat Valley, which is located close to the Afghan-Pakistan border, simply because she wanted a better life, where nobody would stop her from learning or watching her favorite Indian television series.
Nevertheless, Yousufzai, whose anguish-ridden diary was featured in BBC Urdu Online, has been nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize of 2011, beating 93 contestants from 42 countries.
I am very happy to be nominated along with four other brave girls. I am particularly inspired by Michaela who, despite her physical disability, fights for the rights of children with disabilities, Yousufzai told the Pakistani media. She said being nominated for the award doubled her courage and she would continue her struggle, regardless of whether or not she won the prize. The young girl also spoke of the people of Swat, who were peaceful and loving and she wanted the world to stop describing them as terrorists.
In one of her earlier diary entries, written on January 14, 2009 - just a day before the Taliban enforced their ban - Yousufzai wrote: I may not go to school again... The principal announced the (winter) vacations but did not mention the date the school was to reopen. This was the first time this has happened. Her diaries serve as a chronicle of her discussions with classmates about the Taliban. One of her diary entries describes her terrible dream about military helicopters and the Taliban who controlled the Swat valley.
The Taliban took control of the emerald mines in the Swat valley, a popular tourist spot that was once called the Switzerland of Pakistan, in 2009. The Pakistani government did not respond to the Taliban's military move and today the terrorist organization takes one-third of the mines' output, without participating in the actual mining operations.
The International Children's Peace Prize is awarded to children with exceptional abilities and whose acts or thoughts have played a significant role in bringing about changes to problematic settings. The prize was first launched at the Nobel Peace Laureates' Summit in 2005 and was initiated by the Dutch Organization, KidsRights. The current award is the seventh in the series to be given away.
The other four nominated for the award are: Liza (17) from Palestine, Michaela (17) from South Africa, Nikolay (17) from Armenia and Winfred (14) from Uganda.