Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old student from Pakistan who stood up to the Taliban, received the 2014 Liberty Medal in Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
Yousafzai was awarded the Medal for her continued demonstration of courage and resilience in the face of adversity and for serving as a powerful voice for those who have been denied their basic human rights and liberties.
“I speak for those without a voice, I speak for girls who have been persecuted,” Yousafzai said about her struggle with the Taliban. “Why should I not speak? It is our duty to our country. I needed to speak for our right to go to school.”
She said the Taliban committed a big mistake when they attacked her, because the attempt on her life only made her stronger.
“We all need to protect children’s’ rights,” she added, saying that young women in Syria and Nigeria had a right to education, too, despite the struggles in those nations.
“Why not spend this money [used for war] on education,” she said.
She received the medal from National Constitution Center president Jeffrey Rosen in a public ceremony on Independence Mall.
Last week, Yousafzai became the youngest person to ever win a Nobel Peace Prize.
The Liberty Medal was established in 1988 to commemorate the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. Given annually, the medal honors men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe.
The Liberty Medal was first administered by the National Constitution Center in 2006, when Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were honored for their bipartisan humanitarian efforts on behalf of the victims of the tsunami in Southeast Asia and the hurricanes on the Gulf Coast.
Yousafzai is the 26th recipient of the medal. Last year’s medal was awarded to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Yousafzai came to international attention at the age of eleven by writing for the BBC about life under the Taliban in her native Pakistan. Using the pen name Gul Makai, she often spoke about her family’s fight for girls’ education in her community.
For her outspokenness, Yousafzai received the Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize in 2011 and was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in the same year.
In October 2012, Yousafzai was the target of an assassination plot by the Taliban and shot in the head as she was returning from school on a bus. She miraculously survived and undeterred by the continued threats to her life and the life of her family, continued to campaign for education.
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