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Some people are born to be great. Malala is one of them, says Japhet Ncube.
She’s one of those people who will change your life even if you have never met them.
So it wasn’t a surprise that on Friday she was shortlisted for the Nobel Peace Prize, and had she won, she’d have become, at 16, the youngest recipient of the Grammy of international humanitarian excellence.
Malala Yousafzai is the brave young woman who took on the Taliban in her native Pakistan and put her life – and those of her family-– in danger by speaking out against the globally-feared terrorist group.
Shot in the head on October 9 last year while on her way from school, Malala became the face of the battle for the rights of girl children across the world.
When she was earlier this week awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov human rights prize – ahead of another worthy recipient in Russia-exiled Ed Snowden – it was confirmation that Malala is destined for even greater things.
But now, it seems, Malala needs protection from Hollywoodisation by some in the West who want to use her to further their own interests, to own her battles.
Malala must continue to speak independently about children’s rights, including the rights of those on whose villages in Afghanistan and Pakistan American drones strike at the drop of a hat.
We must not lose Malala to those in power. She must not be turned into a Hollywood star, lest she takes her eyes off the ball.
No doubt she has the pedigree to champion the cause of children, especially girl children across the world.
Malala will look at home on the cover of Time magazine and other authoritative international publications as one of the most influential people in the world in 2013.
She deserves every accolade coming her way, but more than anything else, she should be given the space to remain the sweet kid she is, but also to fly as far as her wings can carry her.
In her we have a heroine whose story we must help reach every girl child in the remotest, most oppressive communities. But we all owe it to our children to ensure that Malala is not lost to this cause as she begins to dine with those that run the world.
Our hopes were raised when she addressed the UN Assembly in July, and not only spoke from the heart, but also showed remarkable vision and commitment to the cause of our girl children.
She is indeed a beacon of hope for a world at war with itself.
This has been Malala’s year. Her autobiography, published this week, should be one of the most rewarding books.
Her life must be immortalised in film for generations that will come after her to know how brave she was, and what she did for them.
I couldn’t have said it better than European Parliament president Martin Schulz who, when announcing the Sakharov prize, said they had acknowledged “the incredible strength of this young woman”.
There has been justice at last for Malala, the brave young woman who was born to be great.
* Japhet Ncube is deputy editor of The Sunday Independent.