In 2014, Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with a children’s rights activist, Kailash Satyarthi. The main message that she presents in her acceptance speech is her commitment to making education a reality, not just a right, for all children. Equally, she emphasizes that education must be achieved along with peace, and that all nations should prioritize education over war.
She begins her acceptance speech by thanking many people, including those who awarded them the prize, and acknowledging Satyarthi’s contributions. She discusses elements of her current life as it is changing because of the award, as well as occurrences that helped lead to her becoming the youngest person ever to receive it.
Yousafzai, then seventeen years old, insists that she accepts the award on behalf of all children, and that she will stand up for their rights.
This award is not just for me. It is for those forgotten children who want an education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change.
Naming education as a blessing and a necessity, she speaks of her thirst for education in her native Swat region of Pakistan. This was “paradise” before the Taliban takeover. When education was prohibited for girls, she spoke out. The attempt on her life did not silence her, but instead renewed her belief in the power of education.
Yousafzai refers to her commonalities with all girls and refers to her many sisters in the audience and around the world—many of whom she met through her campaign for the Malala Fund that she established. Naming and identifying with a number of individuals, she states,
I am those 66 million girls who are deprived of education. And today I am not raising my voice, it is the voice of those 66 million girls.
Yousafzai then reviews the violence and hardship to which children are subjected every day because of war, poverty, and injustice. She insists that world leaders know that education is valuable but do too little to help children achieve it. She presents her firm commitment to fighting, in part through the Fund, “until [she] see[s] every child in school.”
She asks why many countries favor war over peace and privilege arms manufacture over education.
Why is it that giving guns is so easy, but giving books is so hard? Why is it that making tanks is so easy, but building schools is so hard?
She ends with a series of sentences that begin with the phrase “let us” to encourage everyone to act toward achieving the goals she has laid out, including putting an end to “lost childhoods and wasted potentials.”