There's no denying what an inspirational day it was Friday. As you may have heard, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani woman whose high-profile campaign for women and girl's education has captivated the world. Just two years ago, Malala was shot in the head in a grisly assassination attempt by the Pakistani Taliban, in retribution for her views. But she survived, becoming an icon for a generation — Malala's quotes on winning the Nobel Peace Prize make it clear she was the perfect choice. "A girl should have an identity," Malala said in a statement to the public Friday. "I want to tell children that they should stand up for their rights… Their voices should be heard."
Yousafzai isn't the sole recipient of the vaunted award, as she's sharing the honor with Indian child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi. It's an appropriate pairing, as both Malala and Satyarthi have focused a tremendous amount of energy and courage towards championing the rights of young people, in settings where doing so wasn't easy. This theme was not lost on Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland, according to CNN: "Children must go to school, not be financially exploited."
Malala spoke to reporters from Birmingham, England, which has been her home since the Taliban's attempt on her life, and expressed equal measures of appreciation for the award, and humility for this series of "firsts" that it represented — she's now the youngest person ever to receive a Nobel Peace Prize.
I’m proud that I am the first Pakistani and I am honored that I am the first young woman or the first young person to be receive this award. I’m thankful to my father for not clipping my wings, and for letting me to fly.
Malala made a particular point to laud the committee for splitting the award between an Indian and a Pakistani, calling for increased comity between the two nations. India and Pakistan have a long history of military tensions — the two nations, both nuclear powers, have been embroiled in aggressions along their shared (and often disputed) border in recent days, as detailed by the AP.
I'm happy I'm sharing this award with someone from India. We will try to build strong relationships between India and Pakistan.
Appropriately, given her tireless efforts to promote educational access for young women, Malala got the awesome news while in chemistry class, enjoying that same freedom to learn which she demands for all.
And while she hadn't expected it, she decided not to use the momentous occasion as an excuse to cut her lessons short for the day. This makes sense — when you've gone through what she has in order to get an education, sitting at that classroom desk is what's exciting, not playing hooky.
I was totally sure that I hadn’t won it. When I found that I got the Nobel Peace Prize... I decided that I would not leave my school, I would continue to learn.
To that, I can only say "hear, hear." The prize brings with it a hefty financial reward, as well — Malala will receive $1.1 million, to be awarded on Dec. 10, when she and Satyarthi will be appearing in Stockholm, Norway. And while news of a 17-year-old being handed a million bucks might normally be cause for concern, we can all rest easy on this one. There may never be a young women more deserving of the title, the money, and the recognition than Malala is.
Images: Getty Images (3)