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14-year-old girl wins Pakistan's first peace prize

By Nasir Habib, CNN
updated 12:07 PM EST, Thu November 24, 2011
A female teacher gives a lesson at a girl's school in the main town of Swat valley, Pakistan on August 1, 2009.
A female teacher gives a lesson at a girl's school in the main town of Swat valley, Pakistan on August 1, 2009.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Yousufzai used to hide her books under her bed, fearing a Taliban search
  • She lives in the Swat Valley, one of the country's most conservative areas
  • The 14-year-old was also a nominee for an international peace prize

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- An eighth-grade girl was awarded Pakistan's first National Peace Prize Thursday for her online diary reporting on the Taliban's ban on education for girls.

Malala Yousufzai, a resident of Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan -- one of the most conservative regions of the country -- wrote about her frustration with the Taliban's restrictions on female education in her town.

Using the Internet, she reached out to the outside world, taking a stand by writing about her daily battle with extremist militants who used fear and intimidation to force girls to stay at home.

"I was scared of being beheaded by the Taliban because of my passion for education," Yousufzai told CNN. "During their rule, the Taliban used to march into our houses to check whether we were studying or watching television."

Yousufzai said she used to hide her books under her bed, fearing a house search by the Taliban.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani announced the award Thursday, which also comes with a 500,000 rupee ($5,780) prize. He directed Pakistan's Cabinet to award the national prize every year to a child younger than 18 who contributes to peace and education in the country, a statement from his office said.

Yousufzai, 14, was also one of the five nominees chosen from 42 countries for the International Children's Peace Prize for 2011. That award, presented by Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire Monday, went to 17-year-old Michaela Mycroft of South Africa, for her "commitment to the rights of children with disabilities," a statement from that prize foundation said.

The International Children's Peace Prize is awarded annually to a child whose courage and remarkable acts have made a difference in countering problems faced by children around the world.

Although Yousufzai didn't win that prize, she said she would still "fight for girls' education and work toward creating a society where girls can be educated freely."

She also has big plans for the future.

"I want to be a political leader, as this country needs honest and true leaders," she told CNN.

Swat remained under Taliban control for years until 2009, when the military cleared it in an operation that also sparked the evacuation of thousands of families.

Journalist Shaan Khan contributed to this report.

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