Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist who was shot in the head and neck by the Taliban on the school bus, was awarded France’s Simone de Beauvoir Prize for Women’s Freedom.
Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, received the award on her behalf. In a passionate acceptance speech, he said that the Taliban must accept peace talks, and that, if they wanted to impose their will, they will “have to kill 180 million people and that’s impossible.” He also expressed his belief in the need for a new type of politics, one that does not sacrifice the people "at the altar of the state,” but that truly works for them.
In one of the many moments when Yousafzai shared his love for Malala, he proudly stated: “In my part of the world, fathers are known by their sons. Daughters are very much neglected. I am one of the few fortunate fathers who is known by his daughter.”
The Simone de Beauvoir Prize for Women’s Freedom rewards individuals who, just like Simone de Beauvoir, fight to protect women’s rights wherever they are threatened. Supported by the Institut français, Paris Diderot University and the international audit and consulting group Mazars, the prize aims to strengthen international solidarity, reaffirm women’s rights worldwide, guarantee the protection of women who are endangering their lives for the struggle, and defend alongside them the ideals of equality and peace.
The President of the Institut francais, praised Malala’s selection for the award, by stating that she "embodies the struggle against all forms of fundamentalism and intolerance,” while the President of Paris Diderot University stressed that Malala’s efforts encourages everyone to „go even further in our campaigns for equality between women and men, girls and boys, and for the right to education of all individuals, male and female.”
Malala started fighting for education and women’s rights at the tender age of 12, when she wrote blog posts for BBC Urdu. In her posts, she talked about the Taliban’s gradual takeover of the Swat Valley, where she lived, and the dire consequences this brought for education, girls’ education in particular, as the Taliban blew up school and prohibited girls from attending school. She also presented her and other girls' struggle to continue attending school and revolt against the Taliban's actions. In late 2009, Malala started appearing on television as an advocate for female education. While her relentless advocacy work made her prominent in the broader movement for education and women’s rights in Pakistan, it was the Taliban’s assassination attempt that transformed her into an international symbol of education.
Through her incredible work and courage, Malala has sparked an unprecedented global commitment to ensuring education for girls. “The Malala Fund for Girls’ Right to Education,” created in her honor, is committed to ensuring that all girls attend school by 2015, as set out in one of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. Ban Ki-Moon has declared that Malala is an inspiration for the education of girls around the world.
Apart from the Simone de Beauvoir prize, Malala has been presented with numerous other prestigious awards and nominations. Recently, The Times declared Malala ‘Young Person of the Year,’ while Time Magazine declared her 'Runner-Up Person of the Year' for her relentless courage to fight against the Taliban and demand her rights. At the same time, more than one million people have signed petitions supporting Malala’s nomination for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, for political and humanitarian reasons.
Malala was released from the UK hospital, where she had been recovering, in the first week of 2013. She still has to undergo reconstructive surgery on the skull.