PHILADELPHIA–A Pakistani girl who survived being shot by the Taliban because she advocated education for girls has won the Liberty Medal from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
Malala Yousafzai was just 15 when she was shot in the head while returning from school in Mingora, Pakistan, in October 2012. She had angered the fundamentalist Muslim group by writing about life under the Taliban for the BBC, and arguing that girls should be allowed to pursue an education.
“It’s an honor to be awarded the Liberty Medal,” Yousafzai, now 17, said Sunday. “I accept this award on behalf of all the children around the world who are struggling to get an education.”
The medal has been awarded annually since 1989, when Polish Solidarity founder Lech Walesa received it first. Since then, recipients have included Muhammad Ali, former President Jimmy Carter, and, last year, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Yousafzai will receive the award at a ceremony at the center on Oct. 21.
After surviving the attack, Yousafzai 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 3 million signatures and helped lead Pakistan to pass a Right to Education bill, a first in that country.
“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,” said Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the chairman of the National Constitution Center.
“Every day, around the world, individuals like Ms. Yousafzai are being threatened for asserting the same fundamental rights of speech and religious conscience that are inherent in all people,” said Jeffrey Rosen, the center’s president and chief executive officer. “Yet she is undeterred in her quest. She is an inspiring voice for liberty across the globe.”