Malala Yousafzai, the child rights activist who became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month, received the U.S. Liberty Medal in Philadelphia on Tuesday. After receiving the award, she promised to donate the $100,000 cash prize to fund education and humanitarian relief efforts in her homeland, Pakistan.
Yousafzai won the annual Liberty Medal from the National Constitution Center, or NCC, which honors people who “strive to secure the blessings of liberty.” According to the NCC, the 17-year-old Nobel laureate received the prize for her “courage and resilience” and for raising her voice against denial of basic human rights and liberties.
“I speak for those without a voice, I speak for girls who have been persecuted,” Yousafzai said, in a statement. “Why should I not speak? It is our duty to our country. I needed to speak for our right to go to school.”
Yousafzai, who became the 26th recipient of the Liberty Medal, said that the award will encourage her to continue her campaign for education, and her fight for the rights of children worldwide. She also urged other countries to invest the money they spent on acquiring weapons in their children's future instead.
“We all need to protect children’s’ rights,” Yousafzai said, adding that young women in Syria and Nigeria also have a right to education despite the struggles in those nations. “Why not spend this money [used for war] on education,” Yousafzai said, announcing that her cash reward would be donated toward education in Pakistan.
The latest award comes two weeks after Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize along with Indian child-rights activist Kailash Satyarthi. Yousafzai came to international attention at the age of 11 by writing about girls' right to education on BBC's Urdu language service.
In October 2012, Yousafzai was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen while returning from her school on a bus. However, she survived the attack and settled in Britain to continue her campaign for education amid ongoing threats by extremists in Pakistan.
“Malala's courageous fight for equality and liberty from tyranny is evidence that a passionate, committed leader, regardless of age, has the power to ignite a movement for reform,” Agence France-Presse, or AFP, quoted NCC chairman Jeb Bush as saying. “Let us all, young and old, strive to be like Malala -- to challenge the status quo and to serve as catalysts for meaningful change.”