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Girls & Women

This 14-Year-Old Pakistani Girl Was Nominated for an International Peace Prize

Despite her youth, 14-year-old Heera Akbar is a champion for change and children in her homeland of Pakistan.

And this week Akbar, who is from the same region as Malala Yousafzai, was nominated for Kids Rights’ 2017 International Children’s Peace Prize in recognition of her work to end child marriage and corporal punishment.

Take Action: Tell world leaders to stop child marriage for good

“I want a world where every child has food, health, education, peaceful environment and equal rights to live,” Akbar has said.

Akbar is one of eight Pakistani children nominated for the award, and one out of a total of 151 nominees from around the world. If she is named the prize winner on Dec. 4, Akbar will closely follow in the footsteps of girls’ education advocate Yousafzai, who was awarded the prize in 2013.

Both of Akbar’s parents have worked to improve the lives of people in Pakistan, so it’s no surprise that the teenager should follow in their footsteps. According to Kids Rights, Akbar’s father is the founder of Child Rights Committee, an NGO, while her mother works for an organization focusing on women’s development.

Read more: Malala — Not Even in College — Is Being Given Yet Another Top Honor

“I have been seeing my father work for the cause, hence have learned from him,” Akbar told Geo News. Her father said he is happy to see his daughter following in his footsteps and is honored by her nomination.

In addition to advocating against child marriage, Akbar told Pakistan Today that she regularly campaigns to raise awareness about corporal punishment in schools and the children who abandon their education as a result. 

Another advocate against child marriage, Hadiqa Bashir, who is also from Swat, was nominated for the prize as well, Pakistan’s Geo News reported.

Read more: Girl, 5, Was Forced to Marry a 22-Year-Old Man in Pakistan

Akbar told the Express Tribune that the “nomination has motivated [her] to strive for children’s rights across the province.” She said that she plans to “continue my struggle for the rights of [her] fellow students in Swat,” which for many years was under Taliban control.

Since the Taliban was ousted, the area and its people are beginning to recover and rebuild.

But the problems, like child marriage, that Akbar is fighting against aren’t just limited to Swat. Across Pakistan, 21% of children are married by age 18, according to UNICEF. Although the figure is lower than that of neighboring India, where 47% of children are married before they turn 18, it still means that tens of thousands of boys and girls are being forced into marriage at an early age.

Global Citizen campaigns in support of gender equality and against child marriage, which disproportionately affects girls. You can take action here.