NEW YORK: Young Pakistani education advocate Malala Yousafzai, who survived an assassination attempt in Mingora, Swat (Pakistan), some two years ago, has won the 2014 Liberty Medal from the National Constitution Centre in Philadelphia, the largest city in the US State of Pennsylvania.
Malala, 17, will be honoured for “her continued demonstration of courage and resilience in the face of adversity and for serving as a powerful voice for those who have been denied their basic human rights and liberties,” the National Constitution Centre said in a statement. “It’s an honour to be awarded the Liberty Medal,” she said on Sunday. “I accept this award on behalf of all the children around the world who are struggling to get an education.”
The prestigious medal has been awarded annually since 1989, when Polish Solidarity founder Lech Walesa received it first. Since then, recipients have included legendry boxer Muhammad Ali, former President Jimmy Carter, South African leader Nelson Mandela, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and, last year, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Malala, the youngest recipient in the medal’s 25-year history, will receive the award at a ceremony at the centre in Philadelphia, on October 21. After surviving the Taliban attack, Malala continued to be an outspoken advocate on education, prompting Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, to petition the agency to recommit to a goal of universal primary education for children around the world. The petition gained more than three million signatures and helped lead Pakistan to pass a Right to Education bill, a first in the country.
Malala is also the youngest person ever nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and was one of four runners-up for Time magazine’s Person of the Year in 2013. Addressing the UN on her 16th birthday, she told the audience that “one child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” She was awarded the 2013 United Nations Human Rights Prize, which is given every five years and has previously been bestowed on such notable recipients as Nelson Mandela, former US President Jimmy Carter, and Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.
She continues to champion universal access to education through the Malala Fund (malalafund.org), a non-profit organization that empowers girls through education to achieve their potential and change their communities.