Malala receives Harvard award for promoting girls’ education

12:59 AM | 8 Dec, 2018
Malala receives Harvard award for promoting girls’ education
NEW YORK - Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai, winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, has urged students around the world to passionately use their voices to enact change, at a ceremony honouring her work promoting girls' education.

At the beginning of the ceremony on Thursday evening in Cambridge, a city in the US state of Massachusetts, Ms. Yousafzai accepted Harvard Kennedy School's 2018 Gleitsman International Activist Award, which comes with a $125,000 prize, according to Harvard Crimson, the university's daily student newspaper.

Ms. Yousafzai made a brief speech followed by a discussion with the audience, moderated by Samantha Power, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

"Right now, there are 130 million girls who do not have access to a quality education," she said in her speech. "We should all make it our challenge to challenge those critical views, all those religious beliefs, and all those cultures that deny us an education."

Ms. Power, who served under President Barack Obama from 2013 to 2017, alluded to the ongoing debate in the United States over the acceptance of refugees, asking Ms. Yousafzai about her message for the bipartisan delegation of newly elected members of Congress visiting Harvard for the Kennedy School's annual Bipartisan Programme."

Ms. Yousafzai urged politicians to be more 'welcoming' and sympathetic to the plight of refugees.

"I think, firstly, do not greet refugees with tear gas," she said. "We should not assume that it is these people's fault that they are refugees."

Multiple times over the course of her speech, Ms. Yousafzai said the threat of climate change should remind people of the shared humanity of refugees and other at-risk groups.

"We need to look at it from the human eye and be more welcoming and consider themselves as our brothers and sisters," she added. "And lets understand that we are living on this one Planet Earth, which is already in danger, which is already at a great risk because of climate change."

New York Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ó in attendancee with other participants in the Bipartisan Programme ó asked Ms. Yoousafzai what role men play in the 'liberation' of women.

"A very large amount of successful women, whether they are female CEOs of Fortune 500s, or female heads of state, one of the most common things that they talk about is that they all report a strong relationship with their fathers," noted Ocasio-Cortez, a socialist who at 28 the youngest to be elected to the House.

Ms. Yousafzai cited her own father's evolution growing up in an environment in which women had almost no rights to becoming a wholehearted supporter of his daughter's work.

"He knew that it was unfair," she said. "He knew that he had to change, so he challenged himself first and said, I am not going to treat my daughter this way. I am going to send her to school. I am going to let her speak out."ù

'Empowering women is not just giving something to women, but it also contributes to our economy, to everyone else, Ms. Yousafzai said.

The Gleitzman Award, whose previous recipients include South African President Nelson Mandela and U.S. Representative John R. Lewis, is awarded biennially to an individual who has sparked positive social change and inspired others to do the same, according to the Kennedy School's website.

In an interview prior to the event, Yousafzai called it a great honour to be back at Harvard, five years after first visiting the University to receive the Harvard Foundation's Peter Gomes Humanitarian Award. She urged students to devote more time and effort toward promoting girls' education.

"The world needs this generation, especially who are receiving quality education in such incredible institutions, to actually go back and invest in their communities," she said. "To go back and invest the skills they are learning here, the talent they are developing here."

"When you have something and you do not use it, it is of no benefit," she added.

Several Pakistani immigrants spoke during the question-and-answer session, praising Yousafzai for her heroism in the wake of the assassination attempt and asking how they could join in the fight for girls' education, the Harvard Crimson report said.

"I just want to let you know that you are a great inspiration to many of us educators studying here from Pakistan," Izzah Ejaz, a student at the Graduate School of Education, said. "A week after the incident happened with you, I signed up for teaching and I have never looked back."