Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani women’s rights activist who survived a Taliban assassination attempt, can now add the National Constitution Center‘s Liberty Medal to her growing list of awards. Established by Congress to raise awareness and understanding of the U.S. Constitution, the National Constitution Center annually awards the Liberty Medal to those who “strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe.” Previous recipients include former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Muhammad Ali, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and 23 other global leaders. National Constitution Center chair Jeb Bush explained why Yousafzai was the perfect choice for the award:
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. Her story is truly inspirational as we continue to fight for all children to have access to a quality education here in America. Let us all, young and old, strive to be like Malala—to challenge the status quo and to serve as catalysts for meaningful change.
Yousufzai first gained international attention in 2009, at the age of 11, by blogging for the BBC about life under Taliban rule in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. Barred from attending school for two years, Yousafzai returned to the classroom determined to secure an education for herself and for women the world over. She was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011 (which she went on to win in 2013) and was later awarded Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize for her efforts. In October 2012, Yousafzai was tracked down by the Taliban and shot in retaliation for her alleged promotion of a “Western philosophy.”
With the world looking on, Yousafzai recovered from the attack and used her newfound celebrity to become a powerful voice in education advocacy. The same year of the attack, Yousafzai started the Malala Fund, a nonprofit organization that empowers “girl-centric approaches to education that support the Fund’s goal of creating a world where every girl reaches her true potential.” When United Nations special envoy for global education Gordon Brown petitioned the U.N. to recommit to a goal of universal primary education, it was Yousafzai behind the effort. Currently, Yousafzai is using her international celebrity to draw attention to the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria.
According to Malala Fund CEO and cofounder Shiza Shahid, the $100,000 award that accompanies the medal will be donated to the nonprofit. This contribution to the Malala Fund,” Shahid said,” will help us get more children into school to achieve their potential and change their communities.”
Photo of Yousafzai courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Emily Shugerman is a politics major at Occidental College and an intern at Ms. Follow her on Twitter.