Malala Yousafzai wins second Harvard Activism Award

Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize winner, is the recipient of a second prestigious Harvard University award for her work promoting girls’ education around the world and her courageous leadership.

The Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School awards the 21-year-old Oxford University student the 2018 Gleitsman Award Thursday in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

She will receive the $125,000 prize for improving the quality of life of children around the globe, the Associated Press reported.

The Taliban attempted to assassinate Yousafzai when she was 15 as retaliation for her anonymous BBC blog, which criticized Taliban-controlled Pakistan, which she started writing at age 11. Soon after the attack, she and her father co-founded the Malala Fund to specifically support girls’ education.

She recovered in the United Kingdom as human rights organizations and governments took notice of her passion for educational leadership.

David Gergen, professor of public service at Harvard Kennedy School and Center for Public Leadership director, said Yousafzai epitomizes strength and resiliency.

“Malala speaks powerfully to the strength and perseverance of women and girls who are oppressed,” said Gergen in The Harvard Gazette. “Her remarkable story has inspired girls — and boys as well — to follow in her footsteps and has activated a generation of practitioners and legislators who are fighting for equality in their own communities.”

She joins distinguished company, as previous Gleitsman Award winners include former South African President Nelson Mandela, U.S. Representative and civil rights leader John Lewis and women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem, according to The Harvard Crimson.

Award namesake Alan L. Gleitsman was an entrepreneur and philanthropist who donated $20 million to endow the Gleitsman Program in Leadership for Social Change at the Center for Public Leadership in 2007. The purpose of the award is to train students in social entrepreneurship and activism.

“Alan Gleitsman, whose philanthropy made this award possible, believed in individuals whose vision inspired others to confront injustice,” Gergen said.  “He was an ardent supporter of Harvard Kennedy School’s efforts to cultivate the world’s youngest changemakers and would be so pleased by today’s announcement.”

Yousafzai, the youngest person ever to win a Nobel Peace Prize – in 2014 – also won the Harvard Foundation’s Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award in 2013, reported The Harvard Crimson.

Her courageous story in the face of danger and threats made her an international star as she inspired a generation of girls to aspire for a free, quality, accessible education.

Samantha J. Power, Harvard Kennedy School professor of global leadership and public policy, will be part of a discussion with Yousafzai during Thursday's ceremony.

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