Malala Yousafzai receives 2013 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

The 2013 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was awarded to Malala Yousafzai on 20 November, during a plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Ms. Yousafzai received the prize from the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz. She is the first child to be awarded the Sakharov Prize.

Malala YousafzaiAfter accepting the Sakharov Prize from President Schulz, Malala Yousafzai addressed the plenary session of the Parliament. In a speech which she dedicated to the "unsung heroes of Pakistan", Ms. Yousafzai delivered a forceful and impassioned defence of every child's right to an education, and of other fundamental rights. She stated: "Many children have no food to eat, no water to drink and children are starving for education. It is alarming that 57 million children are deprived of education ... this must shake our conscience." Ms. Yousafzai concluded by reiterating her belief that "one child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world."

EP President Martin Schulz on the award of the Sakharov Prize to Malala Yousafzai

Commenting on the award of the 2013 Sakharov Prize to Malala Yousafzai on 20 November, European Parliament President and Co-chair of the Sakharov Prize Network Martin Schulz stated:

"The Sakharov Prize is about tremendous courage and exceptional commitment for freedom of thought. Like other laureates of the Prize, Malala Yousafzai shows these qualities at an exceptional very young age.

She was only 11 years old when she started to speak up for the rights of children, and especially little girls, to go to school. She then continued her struggle with the strong support of her family not being stopped by death threats or physical attacks on her.

At only 16 years old, she is today the voice of millions of children and teens deprived from education.

Today 125 million children and teenagers — three quarters are girls - are denied access to education. More than 28.5 million cannot go to school because they live in areas ravaged by war.

Malala Yousafzai's commitment reminds us that giving access to education and knowledge is the best investment a society can make in the fight against intolerance, isolation, violence and poverty.

Without schooling there is no hope for a better future. Without schooling there is no emancipation. Without schooling there is no freedom of thought."

Click here for President Schulz's full speech

Malala Yousafzai

Sakharov Prize Laureate 2013
Malala Yousafzai is a 17-year old Pakistani girl who was shot in the face by the Taliban in 2012, to stop her and other girls from getting an education. She survived her severe injuries and in 2013 became the youngest ever Laureate of the Sakharov Prize.

She dedicated her Prize to the 'unsung heroes of Pakistan' in a powerful defence of every child's right to an education.

'Many children have no food to eat, no water to drink and children are starving for education. It is alarming that 57 million children are deprived of education ... this must shake our conscience,' Malala told the representatives of 28 nations in a packed Parliament and in the exceptional presence of almost all living Sakharov Prize Laureates, gathered for the Prize's 25th Anniversary Conference. 'One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world'.

Malala's fight for education began at age 11 when she wrote an anonymous online diary about a schoolgirl's life under the Taliban in Pakistan's Swat Valley. In 2009, the Taliban decreed all girls' schools closed whilst the Pakistani army fought them for control. Malala and her family had to flee their besieged hometown and her school was devastated.

Returning home after the security situation improved, Malala and her father Ziauddin, who ran a girls' school, continued advocating girls' education despite threats. Malala used a donation to buy a school bus, the same bus on which she was shot, and two other girls injured, in the attack claimed by the Taliban.

Malala lived and is a committed campaigner for girls' education, a co-founder of the Malala Fund and a member of the Youth Education Crisis Committee, set up by the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, who estimates that at current rates the last girl will be in school in 2086, not 2015 as promised in the Millennium Development Goals.

'In Islam girls are allowed to get education. It's the duty and responsibility of every person, whether a boy or a girl, to get education and knowledge,' Malala says.

The UN chose her 12 July birthday as Malala Day. In 2014 she spent it in Nigeria, meeting schoolgirls who escaped the Boko Haram kidnapping in Chibok, the families of the 219 still kidnapped girls and urging more action from President Jonathan. She also expressed solidarity with children in conflict in Syria and Gaza.