Her story, the story of Malala Yousafzai, might have ended there, on that school bus in Mingora, Pakistan, when the then-15-year-old child with a reputation for outspoken convictions was shot in the head by the Taliban.
Malala had already been talking, speaking on television and in other interviews, about the need for education for girls as well as boys. Her father believed the same.
But the Taliban did not, and they terrorized her town as they did all those who dared to differ with their twisted beliefs. And so they came on that bus and shot her.
Still, the story didn’t end. British doctors saved her, and today she remains a student, and she still is outspoken.
And today, the entire world speaks of her. Malala is sharing the Nobel Peace Prize with Indian child rights advocate Kailash Satyarthi. Satyarthi, a bold, brave man who has led many demonstrations at his own peril to protect children from slavery and child labor, will not mind that, at 17, Malala will get most of the attention from the prize, part of which he well-earned.
But Malala’s story is breathtaking, and so is her own eloquence. When the prize was announced, she stayed in class at school. But she said, “This award is for all those children who are voiceless, whose voices need to be heard. They have the right to receive quality education. They have the right not to suffer from child labor, not to suffer from child trafficking. They have the right to a happy life.”
Of his share of the award, Satyarthi said, “Child slavery is a crime against humanity. Humanity itself is at stake here.”
There were feelings among long-time observers of the Nobel awards that the committee in charge was sending a message about uniting cultures, in some way at least, of India and Pakistan, two nations that have clashed seemingly forever. Indeed, this would seem a powerful message that in some causes, there must be unity of purpose no matter the political differences that divide people and their countries.
Both awards also are said to represent the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi, the great Indian leader who preached peace among people all his life.
The world can only imagine what the future holds for Malala. A Nobel prize at 17 will set a high standard, after all. Certainly she appears bound for leadership, perhaps elective office, and her spectacular eloquence already has produced a book and made her an oft-quoted authority on children’s rights.
She also will continue to be a target of the Taliban, which doubtless despises the idea that, as Sweden’s foreign minister Margot Wallstrom said, “The biggest threat to the Taliban is a girl with a book.”
And so her story continues.