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Shot by the Taliban a year ago, Malala was a favorite for the Nobel Peace Prize

By Ben Brumfield, CNN
updated 8:43 AM EDT, Fri October 11, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Malala Yousafzai would have been the youngest recipient of any Nobel Prize
  • She is modest, saying getting it now would have been early, as she wants to work for it first
  • She would like to be Pakistan's Prime Minister, so she can spend more on education for all
  • After the Taliban shot her, the world and powerful leaders rallied around her cause

(CNN) -- She was a contender, at least in hearts and headlines.

At 16, Malala Yousafzai would have become the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, if she had been awarded it Friday. In addition, she would have been the youngest winner ever of a Nobel Prize in any category.

Instead, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded it to the international chemical weapons watchdog that is destroying poison gas stockpiles in Syria -- the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Malala apparently feels like the OPCW deserves it. A message went out on a Twitter account representing her to congratulate the OPCW and thank it for its "wonderful work for humanity."

The activist from Pakistan, who has stood defiant against the Taliban in the face of death since age 11, has become a global figurehead for a girl's right to an education.

A year ago, an Islamist militant shot her in the head. It looked like she would die. This week, headlines cheered for her to win the peace prize.

She was modest about her own prospects of winning and felt receiving the prize at this point in her life would be premature, she told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an interview that airs Sunday at 7 p.m.

He fired three bullets. One bullet hit me in the left side of my forehead, just above here, and it went down through my neck and into my shoulder.
Malala Yousafzai

"I think that it's really an early age," Malala said.

But there's always later. She wants to do more to earn it first.

"I would feel proud, when I would work for education, when I would have done something, when I would be feeling confident to tell people, 'Yes! I have built that school; I have done that teachers' training, I have sent that (many) children to school,' " she said.

"Then if I get the Nobel Peace Prize, I will be saying, Yeah, I deserve it, somehow."

The comment drew warm laughter from the audience.

Malala for Prime Minister

Despite her diffidence with regards to the peace prize, Malala is very ambitious.

"I want to become a Prime Minister of Pakistan, and I think it's really good. Because through politics I can serve my whole county. I can be the doctor of the whole country," she said.

But greedier politicians be forewarned. If Malala held the highest office in the land, the money would probably not flow into the pockets of cronies or pork barrel projects. Her political ambitions seem to stop short of personal gain.

"I can spend much of the money from the budget on education," she told Amanpour. It appears that becoming prime minister is a means to the end she has dedicated her life to.

Malala has accomplished much for education in her short life, which she has imperiled to do so.

The Taliban didn't want girls to go to school. They banned it in 2009 in her native Swat Valley, which is when Malala's plight and her activism began.

Her father, a teacher who ran schools for girls, taught her that she was stronger than what or whom she feared.

She kept going to school and speaking out for education, and she wrote an anonymous blog for the BBC about her harrowing experiences. The Taliban came by on house raids, and she had to hide her books.

Her country honored her with the National Peace Prize in 2011 for standing up to them.

Her defiance enraged the militants.

The assassin

A year ago, on October 9, 2012, they sent a gunman after her, while she was riding home from school. He stopped the improvised school bus and stepped inside.

A Nobel Peace Prize would help me to begin this campaign for girls' education
Malala Yousafzai

Malala recalled the moment of terror to Amanpour.

"He asked, 'Who is Malala?' He did not give me time to answer his question." What happened next may have been a bit blurry for her, but her best friend Moniba later told her.

Malala grasped Moniba's hand tightly and pushed hard against it. She was silent, Moniba told her, as the gunman opened fire at near point-blank range.

"He fired three bullets," Malala recalled. "One bullet hit me in the left side of my forehead, just above here, and it went down through my neck and into my shoulder."

It left behind lasting damage to her ear drum and facial nerve.

"But still if I look at (it), it's a miracle," Malala said.

She is alive and smiling with no major brain or spinal damage.

Emergency surgery in Pakistan saved her life. She was flown to the UK for further treatment.

World cause

While she recovered, the world rallied around her and powerful leaders, from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, rallied to her cause.

She has already partnered with the United Nations on a program to promote global education with the motto, "I am Malala."

This week, marking the anniversary of her shooting, she published her memoir under the same title. On Wednesday, the Pakistani Taliban threatened to attack any bookstore that sells it. On Monday, they threatened to kill her again.

She may not have won the Nobel Prize on Friday, but the European Parliament awarded her the Andrei Sakharov Prize on Thursday for standing up to an oppressive power.

And a Nobel could still be in her future. Committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland in Oslo told CNN that she could be in the running in years to come.

She already knows what she would do with the prize money.

"A Nobel Peace Prize would help me to begin this campaign for girls' education," she told Amanpour.

In the long run, Malala plans to hold out for an even bigger award.

"But the real call, the most precious call, that I want to get and for which I'm thirsting and for which I want to struggle hard, that is the award to see every child to go to school, that is the award of peace and education for every child. And for that, I will struggle and I will work hard."

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