Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai urged lawmakers on Thursday to be more “welcoming” to refugees and the difficulties they face.

“I think, firstly, don’t greet refugees with tear gas,” she said after accepting the Gleitsman International Activist Award from Harvard University, according to The Harvard Crimson.

“We should not assume that it is these people’s fault that they are refugees,” she continued.


Her remarks came a week after U.S. border agents came under scrutiny for throwing tear gas canisters toward migrants seeking to breach the U.S.-Mexico border. The Department of Homeland Security said the migrant group had been throwing rocks and other materials at border agents.

Yousafzai was honored with the Gleitsman Award, which carries a $125,000 prize, on Thursday for her efforts to promote girls' education.

Prior to accepting the award, Yousafzai urged students to contribute their time and efforts to promoting girls' education, the Crimson reported.

According to the paper, Democratic Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOn The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Pelosi plows full speed ahead on jam-packed agenda Photos of the Week: Renewable energy, gymnast testimonies and a Met Gala dress Ocasio-Cortez, Bush push to add expanded unemployment in .5T spending plan MORE (N.Y.) asked Yousafzai about the role she feels men play in women's “liberation.”

“A very large amount of successful women, whether they’re female CEOs of Fortune 500s, or female heads of state, one of the most … common things that they talk about is that they all report a strong relationship with their fathers,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

Yousafzai pointed to her father’s transformation from growing up in an environment where women lacked many rights held by men to becoming a supporter of her work. 

“He knew that it was unfair,” she said. “He knew that he had to change, so he challenged himself first and said, ‘I’m not going to treat my daughter this way. I’m going to send her to school. I’m going to let her speak out.’ ”

“Empowering women is not just giving something to women, but it also contributes to our economy, to everyone else,” Yousafzai added.

Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize for her global efforts to support education for all children. 

As a teen in Pakistan, Yousafzai survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban. She then went on to found the nonprofit Malala Fund, which invests in education programs to help girls go to school.