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Saturday 11th of October 2014 A- A+

Malala Yousafzai, Youngest Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Adds to Her Achievements and Expectations

Malala Yousafzai is 17, she does not use Facebook or even a mobile phone lest she lose focus on her studies. She spent her summer vacation flying to Nigeria to campaign for the release of girls kidnapped by the extremist Islamist group Boko Haram, but also worrying about her grades, which recently took a worrisome dip. She confronted President Obama about American drone policy in a meeting last year, but finds it difficult to befriend her fellow students in Birmingham, England.

On Friday, Ms. Yousafzai became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize — grouped in the same pantheon as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa, and yet still a student at Edgbaston High School for Girls, where she was summoned out of her chemistry class to hear the news.

Pakistan, which she cannot even visit because of threats to her safety, and where many revile her as a tool of the West? Ms. Yousafzai may be an Anne Frank-like figure who defied terror, showed extraordinary courage and inspires hope, but how much can one teenager accomplish?

In one half of Ms. Yousafzai’s dual life, she is the center of an international advocacy operation for girls’ education that now involves a nonprofit organization, two best-selling books, and activities that stretch from Pakistan to Jordan to Kenya. She criticizes not just the Taliban, but also the culture of Pakistan, in which women are rarely granted the same rights and opportunities as men. She has become one of the world’s most prominent faces of moderate Islam, saying in a recent interview that she tried wearing a burqa when she was younger but gave it up: “I realized that it just took away my freedom, and that’s why I stopped wearing it.”

 

Malala Yousafzai on her conversation with President Obama at the White House and how she thinks the United States could be doing a better job defeating terrorism.

 

 

When she first moved to England, she found the clothing on other women so skimpy that she wondered if there was a national fabric shortage. She wears a standard British uniform to school each day — green sweater, striped shirt, tights — but adds a longer skirt and a headscarf for modesty. She still goes to therapy sessions to regain the use of her facial muscles, she wrote in her book, and tries not to dwell on the operations she may need in the future. She has grown to love cupcakes, but does not hide the fact that she and her family find England cold and isolating.

 

 

“We are just a few feet away from the next house, but for all we know of our neighbor it might as well be a mile,” she wrote of her new life.

And yet in an interview last August, Ms. Yousafzai exuded an almost ascetic sense of higher purpose, saying that she rarely watches television and deleted the Candy Crush game from her iPad to forestall a growing addiction. She allows herself to take selfies, she said, but only if they are employed for higher purposes: “We have to use it to highlight the issues that children all over the world are facing, so to highlight the issues girls are facing in Afghanistan or Pakistan or India,” she said. As a child in Pakistan, she had access to only a handful of books, she said, but one was a biography of Dr. King, giving her an early sense of what one activist could accomplish.

Ever the education crusader, Ms. Yousafzai says she is focused on attending university. She would like to study at Oxford, followed perhaps by graduate school in the United States.

She added one stipulation, though: “It’s not going to help me in my tests and exams.”

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