On Campus: Nobel nominee put life on line for education rights

10/16/2013 10:43 AM

10/16/2013 9:47 PM

For all the girls groaning at getting up for school or griping about assignments due, I recommend a peek into the life of Malala Yousafzai, 16.

She lived in Pakistan’s Swat Valley and believes that girls have a right to an education. Taliban gunmen boarded her school bus a year ago and shot her in the head for speaking out.

She recovered and now lives in England. She wrote a book, “I am Malala,” and while she did not win, this year she became the youngest-ever nominee for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Asked if she was afraid of continuing death threats, Malala said in a PBS NewsHour segment Friday that in her valley, the Taliban blew up schools, flogged girls and murdered many.

“It’s a better idea to speak up for your rights, and then die. I prefer that one,” she said. Taliban fighters need to read the Quran, which teaches that girls have an equal right to education, Malala said.

“Now I’m living a second life. God has given me this new life for the cause of education,” she said. “God doesn’t want me dead. So how can I be afraid of Taliban?”

Yet on Friday, the International Day of the Girl, the nonprofit World Vision issued sobering statistics, including that two-thirds of the illiterate people in the world are female, denied access to education often because of early marriage or child labor customs.

“Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons,” Malala told a gathering at the United Nations on her 16th birthday. “Education is the only solution.”

On another front, the International Women’s Media Foundation next week will honor three women with the Courage in Journalism Award to shine a spotlight on the importance of a free press. This year’s winners:

•  Najiba Ayubi, managing director for The Killid Group in Afghanistan, was threatened by gunmen for reporting on corruption and power abuse.
•  Bopha Phorn, a reporter from The Cambodia Daily, faced heavy gunfire for investigating illegal logging in the jungle.
•  Nour Kelze, a photojournalist for Reuters in Syria, risks her life at the front lines documenting the human cost of the Syrian revolution.

Girls in school, reporting the news – freedoms we take for granted, but worth your life to find elsewhere.

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