For some people, the trophy is the finish line. But for Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai, accepting her Nobel Peace Prize was just a bigger opportunity to fight for the 66 million girls around the world who are deprived of an education and hit out at governments that spend more on guns than books.
"This award is not just for me," she said during her speech. "It is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change. I am here to stand up for their rights, raise their voice ... it is not time to pity them. It is time to take action so it becomes the last time that we see a child deprived of education."
Yousafzai, who is now 17, became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize when the Nobel committee recognized her "heroic struggle" to fight for education for her peers. And on Wednesday, she joked that she's probably the only recipient who "still fights with her younger brothers." Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012 after first gaining attention for her efforts to speak out about education for girls in Pakistan.
Displaying the preternatural poise that has made her an international voice for the cause, Yousafzai stood up at the Oslo ceremony in front of the packed house of dignitaries from around the world and received a standing ovation at the beginning and end of her speech, during which she asked, "Why is it that giving guns is so easy, but giving books is so hard?"
Sharing the prize with child advocate Kailash Styarthi, Yousafzai brought along with her to Oslo five girls who, like her, have faced struggles to receive an education. "I will continue this fight until I see every child in school," she said. "I feel much stronger after the attack that I endured, because I know, no one can stop me, or stop us, because now we are millions, standing up together."
In a letter announcing her #thelast campaign to make 2015 the last time a child is denied an education, or is forced to work in a factory, she described the girls.
She said they included: Amina, 17, from the North of Nigeria, where Boko Haram threatens and kidnaps girls, simply for wanting to go to school; Mezon, 16, who encourages children to go to school in her Syrian refugee camp; Kainat Soomro, 21, who suffered extreme violence and abuse, but has not wavered in her fight for justice; and Shazia, 16, and Kainat, 17, my friends who were shot with me on our school bus by the Taliban.
Malala also thanked her father for always believing in her and encouraging her activism.
Her address ended with a powerful call to action:
I call upon my fellow children to stand up around the world.
Dear sisters and brothers, let us become the first generation to decide to be the last.
The empty classrooms, the lost childhoods, wasted potential — let these things end with us.
Let this be the last time that a boy or a girl spends their childhood in a factory.
Let this be the last time that a girl gets forced into early child marriage.
Let this be the last time that an innocent child loses their life in war.
Let this be the last time that a classroom remains empty.
Let this be the last time that a girl is told education is a crime and not a right.
Let this be the last time that a child remains out of school.
Let us begin this ending.
Let this end with us.
And let us build a better future right here, right now.