Malala Yousafzai receives Gleitsman Award, encourages equal access to education

Activist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai speaks at the Harvard Kennedy School forum on December 6, 2018. Photo by Lexi Pline/BU News Service.

By Camila Beiner
BU News Service

CAMBRIDGE — Malala Yousafzai, the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, co-founder of the Malala Fund and a Pakistani activist, received the 2018 Gleitsman Award Thursday night at the Harvard Institute of Politics for her global movement in promoting girls education.

The Gleitsman Award provides $125,000 for activists that have “improved quality of life around the world.”

“It is a huge honor and it is a reminder for me how important this world is,” Yousafzai said. “The world of better education and the belief I have that education can gain power and reach full potential.”

When she was 15, she survived an attempted assassination by the Taliban when she was shot in the head on a school bus in Pakistan.

“I believed in my voice, said Yousafzai. “I told myself I am strong and powerful and I can go against these people. I am not afraid,” Yousafzai said.

Yousafzai said her challenge is to show people we could all get access to quality education because there are hundreds of people who still do not have access to safe and quality education.

“We are a generation of activists challenging the system,” Yousafzai said. “We are challenging corruption in the system. We are challenging any kind of discrimination in the system and we are here to speak up to all those sisters and brothers who need a voice.”

Yousafzai said education is a global issue people need to take seriously and increase investment towards. She said her father believed in her before she was born and is an important reason why she could receive an education, because he wanted to give her equal rights and send her to school.

“I think it is important for men to fight those misogynist views they have in their head and believe [that] power in women is not just giving something to women,” she said.

Yousafzai spoke about the environment and encouraged the audience to recognize that everyone is living on one planet, which is already endangered. She urged young people especially to stand by her in her global movement to change the world because they are the future generation.

“You are all so passionate about change,” Yousafzai said. “If you do not believe in yourself then no one else will. It begins with you. It begins with your own self believe.”

The audience was filled with a very diverse group of people, including 60 congressmen, young activists and students from all different Boston universities. Several said they felt inspired after hearing Yousafzai.

Tyra Walker, a master student studying public policy in Harvard University, said Yousafzai is an important symbol of bravery after the Taliban attack she experienced.

“Now, seeing her to come out and continue to speak and fight for the cause that she believes in, even after the aftermath of this traumatic event that has happened to her, is just the most inspiring thing that you can think off,”  Walker said.

Amelia McLaughlin, a student studying History and Science in Harvard University, said she represents light and hope, which is incredible but also very intimidating.

“The fact that she has been attacked and is still willing to speak up for girls education is not only incredible in its own right but shows young girls everywhere that there are people out there who care so much that they are willing to go through something like that and still keep fighting,” McLaughlin said.

Ava McKane, a student studying bio-psychology at Tufts University, said she was impressed by the level of professionalism and expertise Yousafzai was able to convey.

“I really appreciated her lighthearted humor and ability to be engaging,” McKane said. “It is obvious why her words have been so powerful and successful in making a change.”

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