Opinion

Are you talking to your kids about Malala Yousafzai?

At 17, activist Malala Yousafzai is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Here's why sharing her story with your kids is important.

Malala-Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai. Photo via Wikipedia

Teen activist Malala Yousafzai has jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize. She shares the international peace prize and monetary reward with Kailash Satyarthi, another champion of children’s rights.

At the age of 11, Malala began to speak publicly in her Pakistani hometown of Mingora about the lack of proper education for girls. Initially, she wrote anonymously for a BBC blog, but she soon she garnered public attention. In 2012 she became a target of the Taliban, and was shot in the head and neck in an attempt to silence her.

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However, the shooting had the opposite effect and her public profile has grown stronger since she recovered from the attack and relocated to her new home in Britain. She has become an international symbol of courage, conviction and a girl’s right to a proper education. Now, at 17, she is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Kailash Satyarthi founded Save the Children in 1980. He’s worked on behalf of children sold into slavery and, after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, told CNN that it was “an honour to all those children who are still suffering in slavery, bonded labour and trafficking.”

The prize committee issued the following statement: “The two shared the prize for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education” and that the committee “regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.”

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Malala has become a torchbearer for the rights of young girls around the world. Ask any fifth grade girl in Canada to name a real-life hero and there is a good chance Malala is at the top of their lists. Her profound message resonates with parents and kids alike. She is a symbol of empowerment and action. Her youth and charm make her relatable to any kid today. She is fighting for something we often take for granted.

Malala took on dangerous enemies and survived, but she hasn’t stepped away from the spotlight. She’s started an organization for girls’ education and continues to speak out about the oppression of women in Pakistan and in other countries across the globe. She says: “I might be afraid of ghosts and, like, dragons and those things, but I’m not afraid of the Taliban. If you kill someone, it shows that you are afraid of that person. So, why shall I be afraid of someone who is afraid of me already?”

Her father is often by her side when she shares her story, and he says that he always knew she was special. Take the time to listen to her interview on CBC’s The Current. She says of her would-be murderers, “They wanted to silence one Malala, but instead now thousands and millions of Malalas are speaking.” She talks of forgiveness and action and of how she would like to return to Pakistan one day to make a difference on her home soil. But she can’t return yet, it would be much too dangerous.

It is easy to be cynical and feel helpless. We are overcome with bad news every day, and the international conflicts can feel overwhelming and endless. But what Malala teaches us, and our kids, is that one person can in fact change the world. That message of hope is one that I want my kids to hear repeated over and over again.

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Malala once told the United Nations: “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

Naming her as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize shows the world that this statement is true. So, when you talk to your kids about Malala today, show them her organization’s website and share stories of their tireless efforts to educate the more than 66 million girls who are currently not receiving the education they so very much deserve.

Visit Malala Fund.

Emma Waverman is a writer, blogger and mom to three kids. She has many opinions, some of them are fit to print. Read more of her articles here and follow her on Twitter @emmawaverman.

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