Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai has urged politicians to be more "welcoming" and sympathetic to the plight of refugees. 

Addressing a ceremony at the Harvard Kennedy School where Yousafzai was awarded the 2018 Gleitsman Award from the Center for Public, she said “Right now, there are 130 million girls who do not have access to a quality education. We should all make it our challenge to challenge those critical views, all those religious beliefs, and all those cultures that deny us an education.”

The Harvard Kennedy School’s 2018 Gleitsman International Activist Award, which comes with a $125,000 prize was awarded to Yousafzai for her work promoting girls’ education.

The Gleitsman Award, whose previous recipients include South African President Nelson Mandela is awarded biennially to an individual who has “sparked positive social change and inspired others to do the same,” according to the Kennedy School’s website.

After accepting the award, Yousafzai gave a short speech followed by a discussion with the audience, moderated by Samantha Power, the former United States ambassador to the United Nations.

The young activist said, “I think, firstly, don’t greet refugees with tear gas,” she said. “We should not assume that it is these people’s fault that they are refugees.”

"We should not assume that it is the people's fault that they are refugees,” she asserted.

She added that the threat of climate change should remind people of the shared humanity of refugees and other at-risk groups.

"We need to look at it from the human eye and be more welcoming and consider themselves as our brothers and sisters," she added.

"And let's understand that we are living on this one Planet Earth, which is already in danger, which is already at a great risk because of climate change.

When asked by New York Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez what role men play in the liberation of women, Yousafzai said, “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.”

Giving an example of her father, the 21-year-old gave said that growing up in an environment in which women had almost no rights to becoming a wholehearted supporter of his daughter’s work. 

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

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

In an earlier interview, Yousafzai called it a great honour to be back at Harvard, five years after first visiting the University to receive the Harvard Foundation’s Peter Gomes Humanitarian Award.