Malala Yousafzai Accepts Award from Harvard Kennedy School, Talks About Role Men Play in the “Liberation” of Women

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Malala Yousafzai, winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, speaks at the Harvard Kennedy School after receiving the 2018 Gleitsman International Activist Award. Photo: Amy Y. Li (Photo courtesy of the Harvard Crimson)

CAMBRIDGE, MA–Malala Yousafzai, winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize and a crusader for female education around the world, urged Harvardstudents on Thursday evening to passionately use their voices to enact change, reported the Harvard Crimson.

Yousafzai also accepted Harvard Kennedy School’s 2018 Gleitsman International Activist Award, which comes with a $125,000 prize.

“Yousafzai gave a short speech followed by a discussion with the audience, moderated by Samantha J. Power, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations,” according to Harvard Crimson.

“Right now, there are 130 million girls who do not have access to a quality education,” Harvard Crimson quoted Yousafzai as saying in her speech. “We should all make it our challenge to challenge those critical views, all those religious beliefs, and all those cultures that deny us an education.”

Here are some more excerpts from the Harvard Crimson article:

Yousafzai, a Pakistani native, gained global recognition for her outspoken support of girls’ education in the wake of the Taliban’s occupation of her home village. She was shot by a Taliban gunman in 2012 in retaliation for her activism.

Power, who served under President Barack Obama from 2013 to 2017, alluded to the ongoing debate in the United States over the acceptance of refugees, asking Yousafzai about her message for the bipartisan delegation of newly elected members of Congress visiting Harvard for the Kennedy School’s annual “Bipartisan Program.”

Yousafzai urged politicians to be more “welcoming” and sympathetic to the plight of refugees.

“I think, firstly, don’t greet refugees with tear gas,” she said. “We should not assume that it is these people’s fault that they are refugees.”

Multiple times over the course of her speech, Yousafzai said the threat of climate change should remind people of the shared humanity of refugees and other at-risk groups.

“We need to look at it from the human eye and be more welcoming and consider themselves as our brothers and sisters,” she added. “And let’s understand that we are living on this one Planet Earth, which is already in danger, which is already at a great risk because of climate change.”

New York Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — in attendance with other participants in the Bipartisan Program — asked Yousafzai what role men play in the “liberation” of women.

“A very large amount of successful women, whether they’re female CEOs of Fortune 500s, or female heads of state, one of the most … common things that they talk about is that they all report a strong relationship with their fathers,” Ocasio-Cortez noted.

Yousafzai cited her own father’s evolution growing up in an environment in which women had almost no rights to becoming a wholehearted supporter of his daughter’s work.

“He knew that it was unfair,” she said. “He knew that he had to change, so he challenged himself first and said, ‘I’m not going to treat my daughter this way. I’m going to send her to school. I’m going to let her speak out.’”

“Empowering women is not just giving something to women, but it also contributes to our economy, to everyone else,” Yousafzai said.

The Gleitzman Award, whose previous recipients include South African President Nelson Mandela and U.S. Representative John R. Lewis, is awarded biennially to an individual who has “sparked positive social change and inspired others to do the same,” according to the Kennedy School’s website.”

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