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3rd boxThe woman who stole the limelight in 2014 is actually barely one. Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai gave Pakistan much-needed joy and optimism by being the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. She is also the youngest Nobel Laureate for peace.

Malala has become a role model for millions of girls – and not only in Pakistan. By demonstrating a generosity of spirit and clarity of thought, she has shown that the Nobel Prize – and the countless prestigious others given to her earlier – has not gone to her head. 

Malala’s campaign for the right of children, particularly girls, to education became global shortly after she recovered from the murderous attack on her in Swat in 2012. Inspired by her courage and determination, many world leaders encouraged her efforts and helped set up the Malala Fund for education. Since then, she has spoken up for schoolchildren in some of the most troubled parts of the world, even travelling to refugee camps to meet Syrian children and to Nigeria to campaign for the school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.

The young Nobel Laureate also struck the right note by inviting not only her former schoolmate who was injured in the same attack by the Taliban, but also Kainat Soomro, a young rape survivor from Sindh who has been fighting for years for justice. Perhaps Malala saw in Kainat a reflection of her own courage and perseverance.

The battle for education for girls is a long and arduous one in Pakistan. Malala has already shown rare qualities of leadership. Pakistan’s leadership should now look to her to try and get more girls into school.

– Zohra Yusuf
The writer is Chairperson, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on March 8, 2015.