Malala Yousafzai is known for her education and women's rights activism in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. In early 2009, at the age of 11/12, Malala wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC detailing her life under Taliban rule, their attempts to take control of the valley, and her views on promoting education for girls. On 9 October 2012, Malala was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen while returning home on a school bus. This attack and the constant threats on her life did not change her aims and ambitions. She is continuing her fight for education and children’s and women’s rights.
In 2013 Malala was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and is the youngest nominee in history. In 2013 she received the Sakharov Prize awarded by the European Parliament.
Four Freedoms Awards acceptance speech by Malala Yousafzai
Your Majesties, Royal Highnesses, Excellences, Honoured Laureates, members of the Roosevelt family, his excellency 'Moazzam Ahmad Khan' – ambassador of Pakistan, dear sisters and brothers.
I am humbled to be here today.
I am thankful to these incredible honourees who are campaigning to ensure that every person is entitled to basic human rights, no matter who you are, or where you are from.
I am here today to thank you all for awarding me with the medal for freedom from fear.
My family, the people of Pakistan and I know what real fear means.
I remember how the terrorists inflicted inhuman atrocities against the people of SWAT.
I remember how our schools were bombed and girls were banned from going to school.
I remember how the worshippers of God were brutally killed in mosques, churches and temples.
I remember how terrorists exploited the most vulnerable people in our society, the poor, the unemployed and the needy, and then recruited them and turned them into suicide bombers.
Dear sisters and brothers, when the Taliban struck in the valley of SWAT, they spread extreme terror throughout, slaughtering people, flogging girls, bombing schools and spreading hatred.
Hundreds and thousands of people were killed many of whom chose not to speak out because of the fear of terrorism which is worse than a traditional war. In terrorism you do not know where and when you and your family can be targeted. Death follows you constantly like a shadow.
At that time, I realisedI had two options. Either to keep silent and wait to be killed or to speak out and then be killed. I chose the second one.
Dear brothers and sisters, for me peace is not only the absence of war but the absence of fear.
Peace is a world of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
I am very happy, there are many people in this world who are there to support me and show me love and hope. There are millions of people who want peace, justice and equality.
All over the world today, as I stand here talking to you, there are children being denied their basic human right to education. We must give them courage to overcome fear, we must give them hope to step forward and we must raise up their our voices so they can be heard.
Today I raise my voice for my Nigerian sisters who are still suffering from the imprisonment of Boko Haram. I empathise with them, their parents and their communities. And I am hopeful that my sisters will come back home safely, as millions of people have raised their voice for their safe return.