Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

To celebrate Women’s History month, we are highlighting The Schlager Anthology of Women’s History and offering a sneak peek of our excerpt of and introduction to Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech. The Schlager Anthology of Women’s History features carefully curated documents along with scholarly introductions that put each document into its historical context. Take a look at one of our documents below!


Malala Yousafzai at the Nobel Prize ceremony in 2014

Malala Yousafzai: Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech


Malala Yousafzai



Document Type



Announced the dedication of Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Peace Prize money to the Malala Fund, intended to build schools in Pakistan and to fund and promote education for girls worldwide 


On December 10, 2014, seventeen-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. She was the youngest recipient and the first Pashtun to receive the prize. In her acceptance speech, Yousafzai told her harrowing survival story while focusing on the prioritization of children’s and women’s rights, particularly in receiving a quality education.

As a result of her outspoken activism on the right of girls to an education, Yousafzai received public and private death threats. An assassination attempt was made on her life on October 9, 2012, by a member of the Pakistani Taliban who shot Yousafzai and two of her friends on their way home on a school bus in her homeland, Swat. Yousafzai was shot in the left side of her head and transported to a hospital in Birmingham, England, where she gained consciousness ten days after the attack. The assassination attempt placed an international spotlight on the Taliban’s opposition to educating girls and the overall treatment of women in the region.

Yousafzai is well known for her advocacy in attaining equal, free, and quality education for the world’s children, especially girls. In her address she spoke about the 66 million girls around the world who are not receiving an education and the void that leaves in society. She provided an example of her twelve-year-old friend who aspired to become a doctor but, because she was a girl, was forced into marriage as a child and was unable to continue her education.

In 2014, Yousafzai and her father created the Malala Fund with the goal to provide girls an opportunity to select and pursue their own goals. In 2020, at age twenty-two, Yousafzai graduated from Oxford University with a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy, politics, and economics.

 Document Text

This award is not just for me. 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 just a committed and even stubborn person who wants to see every child getting quality education, who wants to see women having equal rights, and who wants peace in every corner of the world. Education is one of the blessings of life, and one of its necessities.

We had a thirst for education because our future was right there in that classroom. We would sit, learn, and read together. We loved to wear neat and tidy school uniforms, and we would sit there with big dreams in our eyes. We wanted to make our parents proud and prove that we could also excel in our studies and achieve those goals, which some people think only boys can.

But things did not remain the same. When I was in Swat, which was a place of tourism and beauty, [it] suddenly changed into a place of terrorism. I was just ten [when] more than 400 schools were destroyed. Women were flogged. People were killed. And our beautiful dreams turned into nightmares.

Education went from being a right to being a crime. 

Girls were stopped from going to school. 

When my world suddenly changed, my priorities changed too.

I had two options. One was to remain silent and wait to be killed. And the second was to speak up and then be killed. I chose the second one. I decided to speak up. . . .

The terrorists tried to stop us and attacked me and my friends, who are here today, on our school bus in 2012, but neither their ideas nor their bullets could win. We survived. And since that day, our voices have grown louder and louder. I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not. It is the story of many girls. Today, I tell their stories too.

I have brought with me some of my sisters from Pakistan, from Nigeria and from Syria, who share this story. My brave sisters Shazia and Kainat were also shot that day on our school bus. But they have not stopped learning. And my brave sister Kainat Soomro who went through severe abuse and extreme violence, even her brother was killed, but she did not succumb.

Also my sisters here, whom I met during my Malala Fund campaign. My sixteen-year-old courageous sister, Mezon from Syria, who now lives in Jordan as a refugee and goes from tent to tent encouraging girls and boys to learn. And my sister Amina, from the North of Nigeria, where Boko Haram threatens and stops girls and even kidnaps girls, just for wanting to go to school.

Though I appear as one girl, one person, who is five foot two inches tall, if you include my high heels—it means I am five foot only—I am not a lone voice, I am many. . . . 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.

Sometimes people like to ask me, Why should girls go to school? Why is it important for them? But I think the more important question is, Why shouldn’t they? Why shouldn’t they have this right to go to school?

Today, in half of the world, we see rapid progress and development. However, there are many countries where millions still suffer from the very old problems of war, poverty, and injustice.

We still see conflicts in which innocent people lose their lives and children become orphans. We see many people becoming refugees in Syria, Gaza, and Iraq. In Afghanistan, we see families being killed in suicide attacks and bomb blasts.

Many children in Africa do not have access to education because of poverty. And as I said, we still see girls who have no freedom to go to school in the north of Nigeria.

Many children in countries like Pakistan and India, as Kailash Satyarthi mentioned, many children, especially in India and Pakistan, are deprived of their right to education because of social taboos, or they have been forced into child marriage or into child labor.

One of my very good school friends, the same age as me, who had always been a bold and confident girl, dreamed of becoming a doctor. But her dream remained a dream. At the age of twelve, she was forced to get married. And then soon she had a son, she had a child when she herself was a child only fourteen. I know that she could have been a very good doctor.

But she couldn’t because she was a girl.

Her story is why I dedicate the Nobel Peace Prize money to the Malala Fund, to help give girls quality education, everywhere, anywhere in the world, and to raise their voices. The first place this funding will go to is where my heart is, to build schools in Pakistan, especially in my home of Swat and Shangla.

In my own village, there is still no secondary school for girls. And it is my wish and my commitment, and now my challenge to build one so that my friends and my sisters can go there to school and get a quality education and to get this opportunity to fulfill their dreams.

This is where I will begin, but it is not where I will stop. I will continue this fight until I see every child—every child—in school.

My great hope is that this will be the last time—this will be the last time we must fight for education. Let’s solve this once and for all.

It is not time to tell the world leaders to realize how important education is. They already know it; their own children are in good schools. Now it is time to call them to act for the rest of the world’s children. We ask the world leaders to unite and make education their top priority.


flogged: beaten with a whip or stick as punishment

injustice: unfair treatment

Kailash Satyarthi: Indian social reform worker for children’s education and against child labor, and co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 with Malala Yousafzai

Nobel Peace Prize: started by Alfred Nobel, the weapons maker who invented dynamite and then became interested in peace and, upon his death, funded a series of prizes, which have been awarded since 1901

Pakistan: a country in South Asia, officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, that borders Iran, Afghanistan, China, and India

Swat: a district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of northern Pakistan named for the Swat River and known for the natural beauty of its mountains, forests, meadows, and river valley

Short-Answer Questions

1. Summarize how world leaders can prioritize education for all children.

2. Describe how providing children with a quality education is essential for the betterment of the world.

3. Analyze how Malala Yousafzai’s experience can empower and motivate children in developed and developing countries.

⸺Kimberly Matthews