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At UN, Malala rallies youth to stand up for universal education
New York, 13 July 2013:Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban for attending classes, addressed hundreds of young people on Friday at the United Nations, urging them to use education as a weapon against extremism.
Listen: (Malala speech in full)
“Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One teacher, one book, one pen, can change the world,” Ms. Yousafzai said, in an impassioned address to the UN Youth Assembly. She says:
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has dubbed today – Ms. Yousafzai's 16th birthday – 'Malala Day' in honour of her heroic stand to ensure education for all. The meeting, which featured nearly 1,000 youth leaders, was addressed by former United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in his capacity as UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Vuk Jeremić, President of the General Assembly, and Ahmad Alhendawi, the Special Envoy on Youth.
Ms. Yousafzai told the gathering that the Taliban's attack nine months ago changed nothing in her life, except that “weakness, fear and hopelessness died.”
“The extremists were, and they are, afraid of books and pens,” she said. “The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women.” Urging worldwide action against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, she said: “Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons.”
“So here I stand,” Ms. Yousafzai declared before the Assembly, “one girl among many. I speak – not for myself, but for all girls and boys. I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.
Describing the terrible October 2012 incident that only strengthened her resolve, she said the Taliban shot her on the left side of her forehead. “They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed,” she said, adding that the incident instead gave birth to “thousands of voices.”
“The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born. I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. My dreams are the same.”
Telling the Assembly that she was focusing on women's rights and girls' education because they were suffering the most, Ms. Yousafzai called upon world leaders to change their strategic policies in favour of peace and prosperity.
In his remarks, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Ms. Yousafzai, praising her courage and determination.
On 17 June, Mr. Brown launched a worldwide petition calling for urgent action to ensure the right of every child to safely attend school. Ms. Yousafzai was the first signatory and since then more than one million people have signed the petition.