Lumbering yellow buses, empty Walmart shelves, and squeals of children at recess mark the beginning of a typical school year in America. But for girls across the globe, going to school is anything but typical.
The face of this struggle is 16-year-old girls’ education advocate Malala Yousafzai, who made international news last year when the Taliban attacked her and two friends on their way home from school in Pakistan.
Last week, a Dutch foundation honored Yousafzai with the Children’s Peace Prize for her work promoting education for girls in her homeland. Yousafzai survived a gunshot wound to her head and now attends school in England, where she continues to speak out against the barriers keeping girls from attending school.
She said she accepted the prize in the historic Knights’ Hall in The Hague “on behalf of all of the children in the world who are trying to go to school, and all of those parents who are overcoming fear and intimidation—or cultural opposition—to give their sons and daughters the chance of an education.”
Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman handed Yousafzai the prize, calling her “my hero” and saying she is “an inexhaustible source of inspiration to millions of girls.”
The Children’s Peace Prize is awarded each year to honor the achievements of an inspirational child activist. The first prize was awarded posthumously in 2005 to South African youngster Nkosi Johnson for his work on behalf of children in his home country with HIV.
The award carries a prize of more than $132,000 that this year will be invested in education projects for girls in Pakistan.
Yousafzai notes that while her story has garnered international attention, others face the same thing every day.
“In my home country of Pakistan, the Taliban uses terror to try and stop girls going to school,” she said. “I was just one target for their violence. There are many others whose names are not known. It is for them that we must continue our campaign to ensure that all children in the world have the chance to go to school.”