On Universal Children's Day, young activist receives EU's top human rights award
By Sarah Crowe
Malala Yousufzai, nearly killed for her outspoken defense of girls' education in Pakistan, was awared the European Union's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
STRASBOURG, France, 20 November 2013 – It was an award befitting the day. On Universal Children's Day, European parliamentarians presented the Sakharov Prize, Europe's highest human rights award, to Malala Yousafzai, the first child to receive the annual prize since it was established 25 years ago.
She dedicated her award to Pakistan's 'unsung heroes' and called on Europe to do more for children's rights around the world.
"I am hopeful the European Parliament will look beyond Europe to the suffering countries where people are still deprived of their basic rights, their freedom of thought is suppressed, freedom of speech is enchained," Malala said in her acceptance speech.
"Many children have no food to eat, no water to drink, and children are starving for education," she continued. "It is alarming that 57 million children are deprived of education. This must shake our conscience: 57 million children are waiting for you. Children do not want an iPhone, a PlayStation or chocolates – they just want a book and a pen."
A brave advocate for girls' education in her native Pakistan, Malala was shot last year by gunmen who boarded the bus she was taking home from school. Her recovery and her continued outspoken dedication to the cause of educational rights for girls have earned her respect and admiration around the world.
Following a number of high-profile acts of violence against children over the past year – including the attack on Malala – UNICEF in July launched the End Violence Against Children initiative, calling for stronger focus on the hidden abuse and harm of children, and for better preventive measures protecting children from violence.
During a side session at the European Parliament, past Sakharov recipients and leading human rights activists from around the world added their support to the initiative. They spoke of the importance of reaching out to all sides in forging broad partnerships for the sake of children. They also donned the #ENDviolence stamps and stickers created to promote the campaign globally through social media outlets, a Website and television spots.
A group of local French volunteers lent further support, sporting EU/UNICEF T-shirts and imprinting onlookers and hundreds of European Parliamentarians with the #ENDviolence stamp.
On this Universal Children's Day – also the anniversary of the UN General Assembly's adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – it was a stamp meant to make a lasting impression.