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Malala Yousafzai Wins Top Sakharov Prize

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Sixteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai, a passionate advocate for peace and education, who was shot in the head by the Taliban on her way home from school, has been awarded the Sakharov human rights prize.

Yousafzai, who is from Pakistan and now lives in England, is also a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize, to be announced on Friday.  In receiving the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, she joins the likes of former Secretary General to the United Nations Kofi Annan and former South African President Nelson Mandela. 

The $65,000 prize that corresponds with the award will be handed out by the European Parliament.

“By awarding the Sakharov Prize to Malala Yousafzai, the European Parliament acknowledges the incredible strength of this young woman,” Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, said in a statement.

Yousafzai has become a household name around the world for her unrelenting advocacy of girls’ education.  She has been outspoken on this issue for years with schools in the Swat Valley, a region of northwestern Pakistan, which is regularly attacked by the Taliban.

After being shot in October 2012, Yousafzai was sent to the United Kingdom for emergency surgery and has subsequently settled in the English city of Birmingham.

The attack has not silenced Yousafzai, and this week she published a memoir and gave several high-profile interviews, including one to ABC’s Diane Sawyer. 

In Pakistan, Yousafzai has drawn criticism from a section of the right wing, who accuse her of folding to Western political pressure and culture.  It’s an accusation she vehemently denies.

In the statement given by Schulz, he highlighted the strength Yousafzai has shown: “Malala bravely stands for the rights of all children to be granted a fair education.  This right for girls is too commonly neglected.”

The Sakharov human rights prize was created in 1988 to honor Andrei Sakharov, a Soviet physicist and dissident.  Also among the nominees this year were three Belarusian dissidents and former National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden.

Yousafzai is currently in New York and will find out on Friday whether she will win the Nobel Peace Prize.  She will receive the Sakharov Prize at a ceremony in Strasburg on Nov. 20.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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