STRASBOURG: Pakistan’s teenage activist Malala Yousafzai was Wednesday handed the EU’s prestigious Sakharov human rights prize.
To thunderous applause announcing the European Parliament prize, the assembly’s president Martin Schulz praised the 16-year-olds crusade for all children’s right to an education, saying: “You have given hope to millions of people.”
Addressing the award ceremony, Malala said she was happy and honoured to be unanimously nominated and selected for the prize. “I dedicate this award to the unsung heroes of Pakistan and people all over the world fighting for basic human rights.”
Malala called on the European Parliament to look beyond their borders and support countries were people were deprived of basic human rights. “If we leave millions behind we cannot succeed, even if we are the fittest.”
The 16-year-old education campaigner who was shot in the head by the Taliban last year, called for a shift in ideology in how a country would be considered powerful. “The ideology should not be based on military might but rather on literacy rate and equality. A country with talented and skilled people is the real Super Power.”
Malala continued with her message that education could change the world, saying that despite all challenges there was still hope.
The Sakharov prize for free speech is awarded annually by the European Parliament in memory of Soviet physicist Andrei Sakharov.
Malala first gained notoriety as a unanimous blogger for BBC Urdu about living under Taliban rule in Swat and the lack of education for girls.
Past receipts’ of the Sakharov Prize include Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi and South African Nelson Mandela.