Mexico says it will award its 2013 International Prize for Equality and Non-Discrimination to young Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban last year for promoting education for girls and women.
The award seeks to recognize Malala’s efforts for “the protection of human rights” and particularly her struggle to protect the right to education without discrimination on “grounds of age, gender, sex and religion,” Mexico’s official National Council to Prevent Discrimination said in a statement issued on Sunday.
The award ceremony is scheduled to take place in early 2014.
On July 12, Malala celebrated her 16th birthday with a passionate speech at the United Nations headquarters in New York, in which she said education can change the world.
“Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution,” she told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and about 1,000 youth leaders from over 100 countries attending an international Youth Assembly at the UN.
Malala, who was also nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, was given the European Union’s Sakharov human rights prize at a ceremony held on World Children’s Day last week.
On October 9, 2012, Malala was shot by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan militants in the town of Mingora for speaking out against the fanatics and promoting education for girls and women in her home region, the Swat Valley of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The UN speech was her first public address since the incident. She has been credited with bringing the issue of women’s education to global attention.
“They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed and out of that silence came thousands of voices,” Malala said.
“The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born,” she stated.
A day after she was shot, a bullet which hit Malala’s skull was removed by surgeons in Peshawar. She was later transferred to a military hospital in Rawalpindi for more specialist treatment.
She is currently living in Britain, where she underwent successful surgery on her skull and ear. Surgeons replaced part of Malala’s skull with a titanium plate and inserted a cochlear implant in her left ear to restore her hearing.
In December 2012, Pakistan and UNESCO unveiled the Malala Plan, which aims to get all the girls in the world into school by the end of 2015.