Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Malala Yousafzai gets peace prize

Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban, received the 2012 Tipperary International Peace Award
Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban, received the 2012 Tipperary International Peace Award

A teenager shot in the head by the Taliban has been awarded a prestigious peace prize for her courage and determination.

Pakistani student Malala Yousafzai was the latest in a line of notable recipients of the Tipperary International Peace Award.

The 16-year-old education activist was attacked by Taliban gunmen last October after she campaigned for girls to go to school without fear in part of the country where fundamentalists had once imposed strict Sharia law.

In her acceptance speech before an audience of around 200 in Tipperary, she appealed to governments around the world to change laws that discriminate against women and children.

She also said she would rather be remembered as someone who campaigned for the equal right to education than as someone was shot by the Taliban. Tipperary Peace Convention secretary Martin Quinn said he was delighted the teenager had agreed to accept the award in person.

"We are really looking forward to receiving her and presenting her with this well-deserved accolade," he said.

"Malala now joins the illustrious list of past recipients of the peace prize, which includes former prime minister of Pakistan, the late Benazir Bhutto."

Since the age of 11, Malala had been secretly writing a blog for the BBC which described the struggles faced by girls trying to receive an education under the Taliban.

When her identity was uncovered, a Taliban militia boarded her school bus and shot her at point blank range in the head.

Malala, from the town of Mingora in the Swat district of Pakistan, was hit just above her left eye by a bullet which grazed the edge of her brain.

She was eventually airlifted to Britain and treated at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where she had a titanium plate and cochlear implant fitted. She was visited by the president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, in hospital.

The teenager has remained in the UK where she returned to school in March and continues to campaign for every child's right to education, including joining a campaign led by Plan Ireland.

Mike Mansfield, of Plan Ireland, said Malala's story has struck a chord across the world.

"This young campaigner has become an inspiration to millions," he said.

"This is an extraordinary, brave young women who, when faced with death, refused to give up and refused to be silent.

"However, we must not forget there are millions of 'other Malalas' across the world; a whole generation of girls and boys who are excluded daily from learning by violence, discrimination or harmful traditional practices.

"Plan is working with these 'other Malalas', the one in five girls globally who are denied an education or the one in three girls every second who is forced to enter a child marriage."

The Tipperary Peace Prize was established in the early 1980s for an individual who has made a special contribution to the cause of peace is selected and honoured.

Others short-listed in 2012 included US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, president of the Indian National Congress Sonia Gandhi, former Kenyan journalist John Githongo and Pax Christi International, a non-profit Catholic peace movement.

Previous recipients include former South African president Nelson Mandela, former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and ex-US president Bill Clinton.

Last year's recipients were former president of Ireland Professor Mary McAleese and her husband Senator Martin McAleese.

Malala, who has been called the world's most influential teenager, is a nominee for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.


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