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Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-old girl from Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban after speaking out for women’s rights, received the distinguished Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award from Harvard University this year.
Malala made headlines in 2012 when militants attempted to kill her. They shot her in the head and neck as she rode home on a school bus. They said she was attacked because she criticized the Taliban. Malala has been known to bravely speak out in favor of women’s education in Pakistan.
She described the situation in Pakistan as dangerous and said that in her hometown, militants had blown up dozens of schools in an effort to discourage girls from getting an education. According to The Boston Globe, Malala addressed students and faculty members at the ceremony, saying,
“Let us remember: one book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world. Let us stand up for our rights, and let us fight.” Speaking of the Taliban she continued, “They were afraid of the power of education. At that time, we did not keep silent. We raised our voice for the right of education.”
Before the Taliban attempted to kill her, Yousafzai had been reaching out to people and spreading her message by using a pseudonym to write a blog for the BBC about women’s rights and life under the Taliban. Since surviving the deadly attack, she has doubled her efforts and pushed awareness for education in countries where access to schools has been denied.
The Associated Press reports that the President of Harvard, Drew Gilpin Faust, spoke in awe of her and welcomed her because of her interest in education.
The chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, conveyed to Malala, "Your courage is sending a strong message to women to stand up for their rights, which constitutes a precondition for peace."
The 16-year-old said that she hopes to become a politician because politicians can influence on a broad scale.
She received a standing ovation from the audience in the Sanders Theatre where she said in her acceptance speech, “Let us dream today, our dream of a bright future where every girl and every boy is going to school. Where women’s rights are accepted, where there is world peace and justice. Let us make our future now.”
Watch the full speech below: