As the news that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has won the Nobel Peace Prize 2013 trickled in last week, some media outlets, instead of announcing who has won the prize, gave the announcement a different spin.
They said: “Malala misses the Nobel”. Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-schoolgirl was shot by the Taliban in Swat, Pakistan, in 2012, for speaking up for the right to education for girls and women’s rights. Later she was airlifted to Britain for surgery and fortunately, she survived to tell her tale.
From then on, she has become a celebrity of sorts, speaking out against the Taliban and for women’s education at various forums. Naturally, there was an expectation that Malala would be named the winner. But much to the credit of the panel members who decide on the prize, they did not get swayed by the expectations: instead, they chose OPCW, an organisation that has been working since 1997 to convince countries to give up chemical weapons.
Notwithstanding the fact that Malala is a symbol of anti-Talibanism and also various other causes related to girl children — and no doubt they are important and need to be highlighted and her courage is something to be admired, a prize of this importance must go only to someone/organisations who have a body of work to show for a considerable period of time and evidence of having made a contribution to world peace.
While Malala has been doing her bit for the causes that are close to her and they are benefitting from such focus, she has a long way to go in establishing her credentials as a human rights activist to deserve such an award.
The Nobel Peace Prize is as political as it can get: past awardees have been the likes of Henry A Kissinger, Barack Obama, Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin. Many would disagree with the choices made by the wise men and women. But, at least this time around we must congratulate them for avoiding the ‘popularity’ trap.