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Malala Yousafzai Wins EU's Top Human Rights Honor

The European Union has awarded its top human rights prize, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. to Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai. Malala, as she is commonly known, was shot last year and nearly killed by the Taliban in an attempt to stop her efforts to promote education for women.

"I am moved, I am moved beyond words to be here and honored with this great award," said Malala as she collected the award.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz told the audience in France the E.U. is a proud ally of people like Malala, who stand up for equality for girls and women.

"An 11-year-old who was told she's going to be killed because she simply wants to go to school. Just imagine the courage that she has shown. As far as I'm concerned, Malala is an incredible personality of the 21st century," said Schulz.

While being attacked by the Taliban, she was shot in the face and evacuated to a hospital in Britain. She gradually recovered, regaining her sight and her voice, and has continued to fight for women's rights.

Now, one year after the attack, many Pakistanis are proud.

"It's great not only for her, for her family, but for the whole nation," said Mazhar Abba, a Pakistani journalist.

"She is doing excellent work for Pakistani children. This will help improve their development,” opined Mohammad Jamal, a resident of Karachi.

However, despite Pakistanis such as Abba and Jamal, not everyone in Pakistan is celebrating Malala's success.

"My point of view on Malala is that the whole thing is a drama. There are a lot of issues here, like drone strikes, other things happening. You are ignoring all the issues and following a girl," explained Mohammad Sohail, another Karachi resident.

In Malala's home town in Swat Valley, the girl who dared to defy the Taliban is a hero.

"She is an extremely intelligent and brave girl. I want to be like her. She did a lot of work for the education of girls," said Saadia Shah, a female student in the Swat Valley.

Malala pledges that work will continue for years to come.
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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.

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