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Pakistani girl who survived shot to the head by Taliban awarded Harvard's humanitarian of the year

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 30th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Pakistani girl who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban to because she dared to attend school has now been honored as Harvard University's humanitarian of the year. Sixteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai, an outspoken proponent for girls' education received her award last week.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Malala was at Harvard on Friday to accept the 2013 Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award. Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust said she was pleased as both are interested in education.

Shot in the head last October, militants said Malala was targeted as she was critical of the Taliban - and not because of her views on education. Malala says she now has political ambitions because politicians can have influence on a broad scale.

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Speaking fondly about her home region of the Swat Valley, she says she hopes to return someday. Calling it a "paradise," the valley remains a highly dangerous area where militants have previously killed dozens of schools and have actively sought to discourage them from going to school by snatching pens from their hands.

Students, Malala says, reacted by hiding their books under their shawls so people wouldn't know they were going to school. "The so-called Taliban were afraid of women's power and were afraid of the power of education," she said.

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Addressing hundreds of students, faculty members and well-wishers, Malala delivered her address at Harvard's ornate Sanders Theater. She highlighted the fact that very few people spoke out against what was happening in her home region. "Although few people spoke, but the voice for peace and education was powerful," she said.

Malala described waking up in a British hospital, where she was rushed for emergency treatment following the assassination attempt in Pakistan.

"And when I was in Birmingham, I didn't know where I was, I didn't know where my parents are, I didn't know who has shot me and I had no idea what was happening," she said. "But I thank God that I'm alive."

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The chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, paid a special tribute to Malala in a message read publicly during her award ceremony.

"Your courage," Jagland said, "is sending a strong message to women to stand up for their rights, which constitutes a precondition for peace."

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Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)