By Malala Yousafzai
12 July 2013
Education campaigner Malala Yousafzai delivers a speech to the UN on her sixteenth birthday, Malala Day Photograph: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
This is a transcription of the speech that Malala Yousafzai gave to the United Nations on 12 July 2013, the date of her 16th birthday and "Malala Day" at the UN.
Honourable UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon, respected president of the General Assembly Vuk Jeremic, honourable UN envoy for global education Mr Gordon Brown, respected elders and my dear brothers and sisters: Assalam u Alaikum.
Today is it an honour for me to be speaking again after a long time. Being here with such honourable people is a great moment in my life and it is an honour for me that today I am wearing a shawl of the late Benazir Bhutto. I don't know where to begin my speech. I don't know what people would be expecting me to say, but first of all thank you to God for whom we all are equal and thank you to every person who has prayed for my fast recovery and new life. I cannot believe how much love people have shown me. I have received thousands of good wish cards and gifts from all over the world. Thank you to all of them. Thank you to the children whose innocent words encouraged me. Thank you to my elders whose prayers strengthened me. I would like to thank my nurses, doctors and the staff of the hospitals in Pakistan and the UK and the UAE government who have helped me to get better and recover my strength.
I fully support UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his Global Education First Initiative and the work of UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown and the respectful president of the UN General Assembly Vuk Jeremic. I thank them for the leadership they continue to give. They continue to inspire all of us to action. Dear brothers and sisters do remember one thing: Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights.
There are hundreds of human rights activists and social workers who are not only speaking for their rights, but who are struggling to achieve their goal of peace, education and equality. Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them. So here I stand. So here I stand, one girl, among many. I speak not for myself, but so those without a voice can be heard. 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.
Dear friends, on 9 October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends, too. They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought 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. Dear sisters and brothers, I am not against anyone. Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I am here to speak for the right of education for every child. 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. Even if there was a gun in my hand and he was standing in front of me, I would not shoot him. This is the compassion I have learned from Mohammed, the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. This the legacy of change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
This is the philosophy of nonviolence that I have learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learned from my father and from my mother. This is what my soul is telling me: be peaceful and love everyone.
Dear sisters and brothers, we realize the importance of light when we see darkness. We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced. In the same way, when we were in Swat, the north of Pakistan, we realized the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns. The wise saying, "The pen is mightier than the sword." It is true. The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them. This is why they killed 14 innocent students in the recent attack in Quetta. And that is why they kill female teachers. That is why they are blasting schools every day because they were and they are afraid of change and equality that we will bring to our society. And I remember that there was a boy in our school who was asked by a journalist why the Taliban against education are? He answered very simply by pointing to his book, he said, "a Talib doesn't know what is written inside this book."
They think that God is a tiny, little conservative being who would point guns at people's heads just for going to school. These terrorists are misusing the name of Islam for their own personal benefit. Pakistan is a peace loving, democratic country. Pashtuns want education for their daughters and sons. Islam is a religion of peace, humanity and brotherhood. It is the duty and responsibility to get education for each child that is what it says. Peace is a necessity for education. In many parts of the world, especially Pakistan and Afghanistan, terrorism, war and conflicts stop children from going to schools. We are really tired of these wars. Women and children are suffering in many ways in many parts of the world.
In India, innocent and poor children are victims of child labour. Many schools have been destroyed in Nigeria. People in Afghanistan have been affected by extremism. Young girls have to do domestic child labour and are forced to get married at an early age. Poverty, ignorance, injustice, racism and the deprivation of basic rights are the main problems, faced by both men and women.
Today I am focusing on women's rights and girls' education because they are suffering the most. There was a time when women activists asked men to stand up for their rights. But this time we will do it by ourselves. I am not telling men to step away from speaking for women's rights, but I am focusing on women to be independent and fight for themselves. So dear sisters and brothers, now it's time to speak up. So today, we call upon the world leaders to change their strategic policies in favour of peace and prosperity. We call upon the world leaders that all of these deals must protect women and children's rights. A deal that goes against the rights of women is unacceptable.
We call upon all governments to ensure free, compulsory education all over the world for every child. We call upon all the governments to fight against terrorism and violence. To protect children from brutality and harm. We call upon the developed nations to support the expansion of education opportunities for girls in the developing world. We call upon all communities to be tolerant, to reject prejudice based on caste, creed, sect, colour, religion or agenda to ensure freedom and equality for women so they can flourish. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back. We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave, to embrace the strength within themselves and realize their full potential.
Dear brothers and sisters, we want schools and education for every child's bright future. We will continue our journey to our destination of peace and education. No one can stop us. We will speak up for our rights and we will bring change to our voice. We believe in the power and the strength of our words. Our words can change the whole world because we were all together, united for the cause of education. And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.
Dear brothers and sisters, we must not forget that millions of people are suffering from poverty and injustice and ignorance. We must not forget that millions of children are out of their schools. We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are waiting for a bright, peaceful future.
So let us wage, so let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first. Thank you.
By Saba Imtiaz
12 July 2013
Pakistani girls at school in Mingora, Swat. The Taliban's shooting of Malala Yousafzai has paradoxically inspired other girls to study. Photo: A Majeed/AFP/Getty
For many in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl who was shot in the head by the Taliban, is a symbol of resilience and courage in her fight for the right of young girls to receive an education. For hard-line right-wing groups and conspiracy theorists, she is a controversial figure accused of being a "CIA agent" and having staged the attack on herself.
But for young Pashtun girls in Karachi, Malala's struggle to get an education in the Swat region amid an insurgency is an inspiration. This part of Malala's life – documented in a diary published by the BBC – has encouraged many of them to start writing and sharing their own dreams of staying in school.
After the Pakistani Taliban attempted to assassinate Malala last October, a young teacher with the Teach for Pakistan programme started reading Malala's diary to her 13-year-old pupils at a government-run secondary school in Karachi.
"They had heard other things about her," recalls Afrah Qureshi, who teaches English to 200 students at the school, in a poor, conservative Pashtun district. "Some said that they had heard she had committed blasphemy, that she had said something about religion. And then I asked them if they had read Malala's diary."
Qureshi began reading a page of Malala's diary to her young pupils every day in her class, and encouraged them to begin writing their own. As they read her diary, their perceptions changed almost entirely. "They loved reading her thoughts," said Qureshi. "I wanted them to make an informed opinion."
One 14-year-old girl, Sara*, writes in an elegant, cursive hand and at length about her own aspirations and scenes from everyday life. "I think Malala is a brave and an intelligent girl," reads the first entry in her own diary, titled A Tribute to Malala.
"The Taliban should not stop her to go to school because every person has their own life. A killer should not attack on her because it is not right … We all should respect our talented people, as we respect Malala."
Sara told the Guardian that she had enjoyed reading Malala's diary and her story in her own words, and she loved writing her own diary. "It improves my English," she said.
One year on, she says she can't wait to return to school after the summer holiday is over. "I didn't like studying so much before, but now I really want to. My younger brothers, my sister and I … we are all reading our books."
Sara's diary is a reflection of the perils in the city she lives in – Karachi – where an average of eight people are killed in assassinations and clashes between rival factions every day. "About 8pm there were two bomb blasts in Karachi and I'm so sad," she wrote in November. "Why [do] killers kill the people? Do they feel good after killing the people?"
Afrah Qureshi said Sara's father was incredulous at first, when she had a conversation with him in English. "You must have rote-learned this," he told his daughter, according to Qureshi. Now, he's proud of his daughter's English skills.
Aliya, a 13-year-old pupil, exuberantly wished Qureshi "Happy Malala Day, teacher!"
'I love going to school'
Aliya said she had been moved by reading Malala's diary. "I felt very bad that she wasn't allowed to study. It was only her parents who did a great service to her and helped her do so," she said.
"I love going to school," Aliya said. "My teacher is there, my friends are there. I get up early for school, and I'm even attending summer camp where I've taken every single class. I love studying."
She rattled off a list of things she wants to do when she's older, including going to one of the country's most prestigious private universities. "I want to take science subjects in class 9 and class 10, and then study computer science at LUMS [Lahore University of Management Sciences], and then I'm going to work for Teach for Pakistan!," she said, referring to the nationwide movement of graduates who volunteer to teach in under-resourced schools.
For many of these girls, there is little hope that they will ever get more than a secondary school certificate. Many are taken out of school when they are 14 to get married. In this community, there is no concept of women working, though that is changing in other Pashtun districts in Karachi. At a parent-teacher conference, Qureshi recalled a girl's father telling her that he was "very worried" about his daughter's future. "I see that she's so intelligent and I want to help her, but how?" he said.
Despite the challenges, Teach for Pakistan says these young girls are incredibly eager to learn, and spend their breaks in the classroom so they have an opportunity to closely engage with their teachers. The organisation's teaching fellows work with the communities and the parents – who they consider the biggest stakeholders – to ensure that they are all on board and involved with the girls' education. In Aliya and Sara's school, enrolment has nearly doubled this year as a result. More women are applying to work at Teach for Pakistan, which means that they can place more teachers in girls' schools.
Another entry by Sara recalls a conversation she had with her sister about what she wanted to do later in life. "Sometimes I think: what will I become? I like many professions like singer, actor, writer, teacher, poet whatever, but my most favourite is army ... If I cannot become something special, I want to become a good person."
*The names of pupils have been changed to protect their identity.
Malala Delivers Defiant Riposte to Taliban Militants as UN Hails 'Our Hero'
By Ed Pilkington
12 July 2013
Malala Yousafzai spoke at the UN in New York on her 16th birthday, a day now dubbed Malala Day. Photograph: Mary Altaffer/AP
When the Taliban sent a gunman to shoot Malala Yousafzai last October as she rode home on a bus after school, they made clear their intention: to silence the teenager and kill off her campaign for girls' education.
Nine months and countless surgical interventions later, she stood up at the United Nations on her 16th birthday on Friday to deliver a defiant riposte. "They thought that the bullet would silence us. But they failed," she said.
As 16th birthdays go, it was among the more unusual. Instead of blowing out candles on a cake, Malala sat in one of the United Nation's main council chambers in the central seat usually reserved for world leaders.
She listened quietly as Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, described her as "our hero, our champion"; and as the former British prime minister and now UN education envoy, Gordon Brown, uttered what he called "the words the Taliban never wanted her to hear: happy 16th birthday, Malala".
The event, dubbed Malala Day, was the culmination of an extraordinary four years for the girl from Mingora, in the troubled Swat valley ofPakistan. She was thrust into the public glare after she wrote a pseudonymous but later celebrated blog for the BBC Urdu service describing her experiences struggling to get an education under the rising power of Taliban militants.
By 11 she was showing exceptional determination, calling personally on the US special representative to Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, to use his influence to combat the Taliban's drive against education for girls. By 14, she was on the radar of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who put her forward for the international children's peace prize, and by 15 she became the youngest Nobel peace prize nominee in history.
But such dizzying global attention came at a price. Death threats followed her growing recognition, and on 9 October 2012, following a meeting of Pakistani Taliban leaders, the gunman was dispatched to remove what they called the "symbol of infidels and obscenity".
Multiple operations in Pakistan and the UK followed the attack on the bus, including the fitting of a titanium plate on her left forehead, and a cochlear implant to restore her hearing. She now lives with her family in Birmingham and does what the Taliban tried to stop her doing: goes to school every day. "I am not against anyone," she said in the UN chamber, having taken this day out from the classroom. "Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group."
Malala responded to the violence of the Taliban with her own countervailing force: words against bullets. "I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me, I would not shoot him."
She spoke confidently, with only an injured eye and a slightly drooping left side of her face to hint at such fresh traumas. There was one other unstated allusion to the horror of her past: she wore a white shawl belonging to a woman who was also targeted by extremists but who, unlike Malala, did not survive to tell the tale: Benazir Bhutto.
"The extremists are afraid of books and pens," the teenager continued. "The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them."
She cited last month's attack on a hospital in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan, and killings of female teachers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. "That is why they are blasting schools every day – because they were and they are afraid of change, afraid of the equality that we will bring to our society."
And she gave her own opposing interpretation of Islam to the Taliban's. "They think that God is a tiny, little conservative being who would send girls to the hell just because of going to school. The terrorists are misusing the name of Islam and Pashtun society for their own personal benefits. Islam is a religion of peace, humanity and brotherhood. Islam says that it is not only each child's right to get education, rather it is their duty and responsibility."
Such ability to articulate what normally remains unarticulated – to give voice to young people normally silenced – has generated its own response. The "stand with Malala" petition, calling for education for the 57m children around the world who do not go to school, has attracted more than 4m signatures – more than a million having been added in the past few days.
At the start of her speech, Malala said: "I don't know where to begin my speech. I don't know what people would be expecting me to say."
She need not have worried.
Malala Yousafzai Invokes Mahatma Gandhi in Her UN Speech
PTI: United Nations
Jul 13 2013
United Nations: Pakistani teen activist Malala Yousafzai, in her first public speech at the UN since being shot in the head by the Taliban, has said she is inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's path of non-violence.
Malala invoked Gandhi and other global advocates of non-violence stressing that, "I'm not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban, or any other terrorist group."
"I'm here to speak about the right of education for every child," Malala said, in an impassioned address to the UN Youth Assembly yesterday.
"I want education for the sons and daughters of all the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists. I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hands and he stands in front of me. I would not shoot him."
"This is the philosophy of non-violence that I have learnt from Gandhiji, Badshah Khan and Mother Teresa," the 16-year-old said.
Malala told the UN that she would not be silenced by terrorist threats.
"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," Malala said.
The UN celebrated Malala's 16th birthday yesterday as Malala Day with day-long programmes for youth drawn from all over the world.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon named Malala's 16th birthday, 'Malala Day', in honour of her heroic stand to ensure education for all.
Ban welcomed Malala to the UN praising her courage and determination.
"Malala chose to mark her 16th birthday with the world," Ban said, noting the strong support she has received from millions of people all over the world.
"Malala, you are not alone. We are all with you, standing behind you," the UN Secretary General said.
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 Jeremic, President of the General Assembly, and Ahmad Alhendawi, the Special Envoy on Youth.
Malala became a global icon for girls' education after being brutally attacked by Taliban militants while on her way to school in Swat valley on October 9, 2012.
Malala 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," Malala said.
"The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women," she said.
Malala called for worldwide action against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism.
This call was delivered just as the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural organisation's 'Education for All Global Monitoring Report', launched a new policy paper spotlighting that globally, the number of children out of school has fallen from 60 million in 2008 to 57 million in 2011.
However, 28 million children out of school live in the world's conflict zones, and more than half of those are women and girls.
"So here I stand," Malala 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," the rights activist said.
Telling the Assembly that she was focusing on women's rights and girls' education because they were suffering the most, she called upon world leaders to change their strategic policies in favour of peace and prosperity.
"We call upon all governments to ensure free compulsory education for every child all over the world," she said, also calling on governments to fight against terrorism and violence, to protect children from brutality and harm.
Ban reiterated the UN's commitment to give access to quality education to every girl and boy through its Global Education First Initiative which has three priorities: to put every child in school; improve the quality of learning; and foster global citizenship.
"No child should have to die for going to school. Nowhere should teachers fear to teach or children fear to learn. Together, we can change the picture," he said.
Ban also encouraged the students gathered at the Youth Assembly, to continue to voice their concerns on issues that matter to them.
"I urge you to keep speaking out. Keep raising the pressure. Keep making a difference," Ban said.
"You are sending a message, a message of hope and empowerment... a message of dignity and opportunity. All of you are on the frontlines," he said.