The incredible teenage activist, Malala Yousafzai, just made history as the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner ever. In a joint prize, the 17-year-old was awarded the honor, along with fellow activist, India’s Kailash Satyarthi, for their “struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education,” according to the Norwegian committee.
Yousafzai, who was in chemistry class when she heard news, called the prize “an encouragement for me to go forward. It means we are standing together to ensure all children get quality education.” In her acceptance speech today, she thanked her father for helping to teach her “that a girl should have equal rights as a boy.”
This morning, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called Yousafzai the “pride of Pakistan,” adding that “her achievement is unparalleled and unequaled.”
That is, undoubtedly, the truth.
If you haven’t heard of Yousafzai—better known, like Madonna, by just her first name—she made her debut as an activist for women’s rights at a very early age. She began promoting the importance of education for young women at the age of 11, flying in the face of Taliban policies that ban girls from going to school. When she was 15, Taliban assassins shot Yousafzai as she boarded a school bus. She survived the attack to become an international figure, advocating for the equality of women in restrictive regimes like her home country’s government.
She has devoted her young life, which is often under threat, to making the world a safer place for girls. The Malala Fund is her organization created to protect and promote the educational rights of girls. She has given moving speeches, notably at the UN, advocating for children and calling for change.
Back in July, on her birthday, Yousafzai met with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan about the 200 young girls being held hostage by radical militant group Boko Haram. Calling for renewed attention to the harrowing situation, Yousafzai urged the country’s president to meet with the parents holding vigil for their kidnapped children.
She also met with some of the parents herself, many of whom wept as she spoke to them.
“I can see those girls as my sisters,” she said, according to USA Today. “And I’m going to speak up for them until they are released.”
Yousafzai’s heroism is proof that you’re never too young to fight for what you believe in. She is a role model in the truest sense—and a beacon of hope—for so many around the world.
Watch her brilliant, moving, poised Nobel Prize acceptance speech (starting at 11:28) below.
(Featured image via)