STRASBOURG – It’s easy to guess what Malala Yousafzai would do with roughly $67,000. Spend it to educate children, particularly girls in her native Pakistan, she has said in the past.
But it wasn’t about the money when the 16-year-old, who survived a Taliban assassination attempt for her activism, picked up the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France today.
She tried not to make the occasion about herself, after accepting the blue framed plaque and walking up to the microphone in high heels. She had worn them to be seen over the podium, she explained to the audience.
Instead, Malala turned her acceptance speech into a plea on behalf of nearly 60 million children around the world, who can’t go to school. Starving children, who live in fear. Children who dodge bullets and bombs. Girls whose families lock them away from the world inside their homes.
“This must shake our conscience,” she admonished parliamentarians gathered to celebrate her win. She told them that she hoped those in the West would see beyond their own borders to help them.
She pleaded specifically for help in her own country.
She told them that the prize would encourage her to keep standing up against the Pakistan Taliban for the sake of education and would continue her work.
“Because of terrorism, hundreds of schools have been destroyed,” she said.
To the crowd, which included 22 former prize winners, the ceremony, which took place on World Children’s Day, was very much about Malala. They gave her a standing ovation.
The teen, who still contends with nerve damage caused by a Taliban bullet, has impressed leaders in the parliament’s chambers and around the world with her “incredible strength,” as Parliament President Martin Schulz put it when first announcing that she had won the award on October 10. (CNN)