Sakharov prize: Malala shows 'courage' to defend fundamental rights

Written by José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra MEP on 7 October 2013 in News
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The nomination of Malala Yousafzai gives a voice to all children whose rights are being ignored, writes José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra.

It is 25 years since the European parliament first sought to reward the courage, patience, tenacity, determination and ability to overcome needed to defend human rights and, in particular, the freedom of conscience.

It is 25 years since the European parliament first awarded the Sakharov prize. The man who gave his name to this prize, Andrei Sakharov, endured prison and exile in his own native land and left all of us Europeans a legacy of moral integrity and commitment to peaceful coexistence between peoples and freedom of conscience.

Sakharov himself used to say that "the voices which most count are those which are the least heard". Which is precisely why the European parliament wished to make a contribution by proposing Malala Yousafzai as a candidate for this prize, because to do so means giving a voice to all those children who, like her, have to watch their rights being ignored and eroded. Their right to dignity, their right to live in peace, their right to equal opportunities and, especially, their right to receive an education is threatened.

The young Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai is a source of inspiration and an example to us all, reminding us, as she does, of the courage which is sometimes needed to defend our fundamental rights and the freedom of expression.

With her anonymous blog, which has been popular since 2009, in which she reported the daily struggle of young girls to attend school in their town - Swat - which was under Taliban control, and her incredible recovery after being shot by a Taliban fanatic seeking to silence her forever in October 2012, Malala has managed to attract worldwide attention to the fundamental right to education.

"Malala continues to fight in the defence of education and women's rights and has become a moral benchmark for her contemporaries"

Today, Malala continues to fight in the defence of education and women's rights and has become a moral benchmark for her contemporaries. Her message highlights the challenges facing millions of them every day, since it is worth mentioning that one quarter of young women all over the world have not completed their primary education.

What we should not forget is that only he who knows is free, and, therefore, he who knows the most is the freest. And, as a great thinker in my own country used to say, we should not preach the freedom to fly, but the freedom to give wings, not the freedom to think, but that of giving thought. Hence why education plays a fundamental role since the pen is mightier than the sword, or, in Malala's own words: "books are the weapons whereby terrorism can be overcome".

Which is why, in view of all this, and because we believe in her message that a child, a teacher, a pen and a book can change the world - in short, that education is the only solution and should be placed above everything else - that we have proposed Malala Yousafzai as a candidate for the Sakharov prize.

About the author

José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra is EPP group spokesperson on parliament's foreign affairs committee

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