Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai received the 2013 Sakharov prize in a ceremony in Strasbourg on Wednesday, joining former winners such as Nelson Mandela and San Suu Kyi.
Malala was awarded the prize in recognition of her fight for universal and equal access to education. The 16-year-old activist was shot in the head by the Taliban a year ago after campaigning for better rights for girls in Pakistan.
After MEPs gave her a standing ovation, she gave an emotional speech about the millions of children in the world deprived of education.
‘Let us change the ideology of being powerful, the powerful countries shall not be judged by counting their soldiers and navy, but rather we must see which country has the higher literacy rate, which country has more educated people, which country has provided their basic rights to citizens,’ said Malala Yousafzai Sakharov Prize Laureate.
The top EU human rights award was handed out by European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who praised the 16-year-old activist as “a global icon”.
‘At 16 you’re a young woman who fights for knowledge and we can say that you’re already a global icon, in terms of the fight for rights to education. You’re a symbol of resistance to fanaticism. (…) In recognition of your fight for children’s rights to education in Pakistan and throughout the world, it is an extraordinary day for us and it is an honour you confer upon us to accept the Prize. Congratulations,’ said European Parliament President Martin Schulz.
More than twenty former winners were present in the plenary chamber for the award ceremony, as part of the celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the Sakharov Prize.
The human rights prize is awarded by the European Parliament every year in memory of Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov and it includes a €50.000 award.