Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousafzai, shot by the Taliban for fighting for girls' rights to education, was awarded the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov human rights prize Thursday.
"She is an icon of courage for all teenagers who dare to pursue their aspirations and, like a candle, she lights a path out of darkness," said Joseph Daul, chairman of the center-right European People's Party in the European Parliament.
The 16-year-old was attacked last year while on a school bus in northwestern Pakistan, but recovered after medical treatment in Britain. She is also a favorite among experts and betting agencies to be named the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.
Yousafzai started her campaigning by writing blogs in 2009 in which she described how the Taliban prevented girls like her from going to school.
She quickly rose to international fame after appearing in numerous interviews with foreign media outlets. Her growing profile attracted the Taliban's attention and led to frequent death threats.
"I was not worried about myself that much. I was worried about my father. We could not believe they would be so cruel as to kill a child, as I was 14 at the time," Yousafzai said in a television interview with "The Daily Show" on Tuesday.
Her book "I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban" is currently the second-best selling book on Amazon.com.
The Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought has been given by the European Parliament each year since 1988 to commemorate Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov. Its past winners include Nelson Mandela and Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi.
Edward Snowden had also been nominated for the award by the Green group in the parliament for what it said was his "enormous service" to human rights and European citizens when he disclosed secret United States surveillance programs.
Yousafzai was chosen as the winner after a vote among the heads of all the political groups in the 750-member parliament.