Her story of survival after a brutal attack has inspired millions around the world. As did her plea for peace and educational opportunities for girls. For those reasons, and many others, Pakistani teen Malala Yousafzai has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, making the 17-year-old the youngest recipient in history of the prestigious honor.
Malala came to the world's attention two years ago Thursday when she was shot in the head and neck by Taliban supporters who were opposed to her efforts to promote education for girls in Pakistan. She will share Friday's (October 10) prize with India's Kailash Satyarthi, 60, who has also worked on behalf of children's rights by leading peaceful demonstrations against the exploitation of child labor.
"Children must go to school, not be financially exploited," said Thorbjorn Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, according to CNN. Following the October 2012 attack -- in which Malala was pulled off her school bus and shot point blank in front of her classmates -- Yousafzai traveled the world to spread the word about the importance of education, earning praise from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, as well as Selena Gomez, Sophia Bush and Angelina Jolie, who has donated more than $250,000 to the charity Malala set up to continue her education crusade.
"Despite her youth, Malala Yousafzai has already fought for several years for the right of girls to education and has shown by example that children and young people too can contribute to improving their own situations," Jagland said. "This she has done under the most dangerous circumstances. Through her heroic struggle she has become a leading spokesperson for girls' rights to education."
What was Malala fighting against? The Taliban's belief that girls should not be educated, or even leave the house. But, encouraged by her father, who was operating one of the few schools that defied the Taliban's orders, the then 7th grade Malala wrote an inspiring diary of the troubles in her region and her determination to fight for the right to education for girls.
The award, which comes on the eve of the annual International Day of the Girl, is fitting because more than 65 million girls around the world are not in school, many because they are forced to work or marry at a very young age. Malala will split the $1.1 million monetary prize with Satyarthi.