Did Malala really win the Nobel Peace prize without doing much? Yes and No.

Here’s the neutral take on this issue. Because every coin has two sides.


Recently, while in drought hit Latur to oversee the relief work being done by his Art of Living, Ravi Shankar said this (in Hindi) “Nowadays, there is no value to the Nobel Prize. When you award it to a 16-year-old girl who hasn’t done anything, what value is left? It has become a political prize.” [source: video by ANI below]. By the way he also reportedly said, he once rejected the award himself [source] – but let’s leave that out of our present debate (Art of Living has already issued statements denying this, and have said that Ravi Shankar was misquoted [source]).

While most of internet is making fun of Ravi Shankar, we thought it would be appropriate to view both sides of the argument together – and avoid getting unnecessary judgemental.

Ravi Shankar is right – Malala really didn’t do much to win the so called highest peace prize in the world – and thus, there is not much value left to it

I had missed reading the reaction to this statement by Ravi Shankar on internet (and I am sure the TV channels are shouting about this too; I don’t watch much News on TV, so wouldn’t know for sure). But I saw the below post by Amrutash few hours ago, and it nicely explains why Ravi Shankar might sound rude and demeaning, but is probably saying the truth.


I have described in some detail Malala’s achievements (till she won the award), in the counter-view section below, but let me offer a quick summary here. Between the age of 11 and 15 – she kept speaking up against Taliban’s ban on girls going to schools (and other such restrictions) in Swat Valley of Pakistan (her home). She started appearing on TV (as a child activist) and wrote blogs about the issue regularly. Her activism made her famous enough to get nominated for the 2011 Children’s Peace Prize  and the winner of Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize the same year (she was just 14 years old then). And then of course, as we all know, she got shot by Taliban (for her activism and rising name) which she not only miraculously survived but resumed schooling (in UK though, not in Pakistan) and started speaking about her personal story at even bigger and global platforms (helped by extensive media coverage). She even wrote and published her autobiography and within a year of her recovery, won the the Nobel Peace prize. She was just 17  and the youngest recipient ever. But compare “her efforts” to her co-winner (as Amrutash suggests in his Facebook post).

Kailash Satyarthi founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save Childhood Movement) in 1980 as the first people’s movement for social justice, equity, education and peace for all children in India. In the last 35 years his efforts have resulted in the rescue of over 83,000 children and adults from child labour, trafficking and other exploitative situations in India. [Source]. One might quickly label the comparison between Malala and Satyarthi as comparing apples and oranges but the truth is, while one story is very dramatic, the other is a slow boring one that took years to find its audience. And probably that’s what Ravi Shankar is trying to tell us.


Ravi Shankar is wrong – Malala deserved it and the Nobel Peace prize should be valued

If you go back to Amrutash’s post above, and click on the first comment – you will read what he also observes – “There’s also nothing wrong in giving the prize to a symbol. For all we know, Malala will change the world for Muslim girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan and we’ll have to thank the Nobel academy for putting the spotlight on her.

As per the Nobel committee – following is the reason for choosing Malala and Satyarthi for the price –  “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”. Is it really necessary for one to compare two different kinds of struggles? Just because one struggle continued for 35 years and another for five years, does it lessen the effort by Malala?

In 2007, when Malala was ten years old, Taliban began to control the Swat Valley (her home) and banned girls from attending school (and cultural activities like dancing and even watching television). As per NobelPrize.org, following is what Malala did since then – till she eventually won the prize.

  • By the end of 2008, the Taliban had destroyed some 400 schools. But alongside her father, Malala quickly became a critic of their tactics. “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” she said on Pakistani TV.
  • In early 2009, Malala started to blog anonymously on the Urdu language site of BBC – about life in the Swat Valley under Taliban rule, and about her desire to go to school. Using the name “Gul Makai,” she described being forced to stay at home, and she questioned the motives of the Taliban.
  • On May 5, 2009, Malala became an internally displaced person (IDP), after having been forced to leave her home and seek safety hundreds of miles away. But on her return, after weeks of being away from Swat, Malala once again used the media and continued her public campaign for her right to go to school. Her voice grew louder, and over the course of the next three years, she and her father became known throughout Pakistan for their determination to give Pakistani girls access to a free quality education.
  • Her activism resulted in a nomination for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011. That same year, she was awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize.
  • On the morning of October 9, 2012, when she was 15-year-old, she was shot by the Taliban (the terrorists asked for her name when they entered the school bus carrying her back to home after school) which she eventually survived without any major brain damage and in less than six months, resumed going to school (though in UK).
  • After the shooting, her incredible recovery and return to school resulted in a global outpouring of support for Malala. On July 12, 2013, her 16th birthday, Malala visited New York and spoke at the United Nations. Later that year, she published her first book, an autobiography entitled “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.” On October 10, 2013, in acknowledgement of her work, the European Parliament awarded Malala the prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

So what Malala managed to do, in spite of her young age, was use her personal story and rebellion against Taliban (enormously helped by the whole shooting and surviving episode, no doubt) to inspire more and more children (and their parents) every day. This sounds like a good enough reason for a Nobel Peace prize and definitely does not undermine it’s value. Noble represents the biggest brand-name when it comes to awards in science, technology and world peace (this is a great article to read if you want to know how this brand was built) and just because Ravi Shankar thinks Malala didn’t do much to deserve it, means nothing really.

Feature image source.


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