“One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.” Malala Yousafzai, addressing the UN on her sixteenth birthday.
This is the young schoolgirl who was shot last October outside her school in Pakistan, targeted for her outspoken views on education and rights for women and children.
Malala Yousafzai called on world leaders to protect equality and education rights on her birthday celebratory address before the United Nations.
“We call upon all the governments to fight against terrorism, to protect children from brutality and harm. We call upon the United Nations to expand opportunity and education for girls all over the world,” Yousafzai implored.
In Gorden Brown’s (former British Prime Minister) introductory speech, he said
“(Malala) spoke out about the right of girls to seek an education, and the Taliban saw her as a target for assassination”
This address to the United Nations Youth Assembly is Yousafzai’s first public speech since the attack in October 2012 and she embraced the opportunity to promote the United Nations Global Education Fund, led by Gorden Brown and UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon.
Malala is becoming known as an iconic representative of courage and an educational activist
Malala was flown to the United Kingdom for further treatment after the shooting, and Brown acted as the media bridge, enabling coverage of her inspiring story within the media. Malala has been recovering and has returned to school.
“You’ve been taken from your own country that you love. And yet, on your 16th birthday, you’ve come here to urge us to do more,” Brown said in his heartfelt introduction.
Malala, with a pink hijab covering her heads and shoulders, shared with the audience, “I am still the same Malala.”
Despite the traumas she has been through, she maintains a strong sense of self, bringing many audience members to tears through her speech.
“My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same and my dreams are the same,” she said. “I am not against anyone. Nor am I here to speak against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I am here to speak up for the right to education of every child.”
Malala said she was addressing the audience on behalf of all the human rights activists and social activists striving for education, equality and justice.
“Here I stand not as one voice but speaking for those who have fought for the right to be treated with dignity, their right for equality of opportunity, and their right to be educated,” she said.
“When we were in class in Pakistan, we realized the importance of pens and books,” she said. “The extremists were afraid of education…they’re afraid of progress, afraid of change.”
Malala takes an unflinchingly honest view, and delivers it with compassion.
“But if women and young people rise up and demand their due, “no one can stop us,” she said. “If we want to achieve our goals, let us empower ourselves with a weapon of knowledge and shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.”
“Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child. One teacher and one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.”