Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban, has told the UN that books and pens scare extremists, as she urged education for all.
Speaking on her 16th birthday, Malala said efforts to silence her had failed.
She was shot in the head on a school bus by Taliban gunmen because of her campaign for girls’ rights.
“Dear friends, on the 9th of October, 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too,” she said in her first major public appearance. “They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed.”
“the terrorists thought that they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this — weakness, fear and hopelessness died, strength, power and courage was born.”
“I am the same Malala, my ambitions are the same, my hopes are the same and my dreams are the same,” she said to thunderous applause.
“Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured,” she said. “I am just one of them. So here I stand, one girl among many.”
“I speak not for myself but for those without voice … those who have fought for their rights — their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated.”
Her message to world leaders was that they should introduce “free, compulsory education” for all children across the globe.
The speech at the UN headquarters in New York was her first public address since last October’s incident in Pakistan’s north-western Swat valley.
Malala has been credited with bringing the issue of women’s education to global attention. A quarter of young women around the world have not completed primary school.
After the shooting, Malala was flown from Pakistan to the UK for treatment, and now lives in Birmingham, England.
Malala – who is considered a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize – said she was fighting for the rights of women because “they are the ones who suffer the most”.
“The extremists were, and they are, afraid of books and pens,” added Malala, who was wearing a pink shawl that belonged to assassinated Pakistan leader Benazir Bhutto. “They are afraid of women.”
She called on politicians to take urgent action to ensure every child has the right to go to school.
“Let us pick up our books and pens,” Malala summed up. “They are our most powerful weapons.
“One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.”
A passionate campaigner for female education, Malala addressed more than 500 students at a specially convened youth assembly.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also addressed Friday’s session, calling Malala “our hero”. Friday was declared Malala Day by the U.N. However, Malala said it was “not my day,” but a day for every woman, boy and girl struggling for their rights.
The schoolgirl, who set up the Malala Fund following the attack, presented a petition of more than three million signatures to the UN secretary general demanding education for all.
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown opened the session, telling the youths gathered they were a “new superpower” in the world, and appealing to them to help overcome obstacles to accessing education.
The event, described by the UN as Malala Day, was organised by Mr Brown, now the UN Special Envoy for Global Education.
He said: “Getting every girl and boy into school by 2015 is achievable.
“Malala says it is possible – and young people all over the world think it is possible,” he said.
Aid agencies say that female access to education in Pakistan is a particular problem.
They say that the country ranks among the lowest in terms of girls’ education enrolment, literacy and government spending.
Unesco and Save the Children released a special reported ahead of Malala’s speech.
It found that 95% of the 28.5 million children who are not getting a primary school education live in low and lower-middle income countries: 44% in sub-Saharan Africa, 19% in south and west Asia and 14% in the Arab states.
Girls make up 55% of the total and are often the victims of rape and other sexual violence that accompanies armed conflicts
“I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists.”
“I do not even hate the Talib who shot me,” Malala said. “Even if there was a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me, I would not shoot him.”
She said she had learned this attitude from “Muhammad, the prophet of mercy, and Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha.” She said she was also inspired by people like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mohandas Gandhi and Mother Teresa.
Her philosophy was one of non-violence and the “forgiveness I’ve learned from my father and from my mother.”
Malala Yousafzai, born 12 July 1997 is a Pakistani school pupil and education activist from the town of Mingora in the Swat District of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. She is known for her education and women’s rights activism in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. In early 2009, at the age of 11–12.
Yousafzai wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC detailing her life under Taliban rule, their attempts to take control of the valley, and her views on promoting education for girls. The following summer, a New York Times documentary was filmed about her life as the Pakistani military intervened in the region, culminating in the Second Battle of Swat. Yousafzai began to rise in prominence, giving interviews in print and on television and taking a position as chairperson of the District Child Assembly Swat. She has since been nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by Desmond Tutu and the Nobel Peace Prize, being the youngest nominee in history for the latter. She is the winner of Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize.
On 9 October 2012, Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen while returning home on a school bus. In the days immediately following the attack, she remained unconscious and in critical condition, but later her condition improved enough for her to be sent to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in the United Kingdom for intensive rehabilitation.
Culled from the internet