News Column

Malala Speaks at U.N.

July 12, 2013

JT Nguyen, dpa

Pakistani education advocate Malala Yousafzai, gravely wounded last year in a Taliban attack, told the United Nations on Friday that she would not be defeated by extremists trying to prevent boys and girls from going to school.

"I am here to speak up for the right to education for every child," said Malala, speaking on her 16th birthday to the UN Youth Assembly at the world body's headquarters in New York.

"One child, one teacher and one book can change the world."

Riding on a school bus full in the conflict-torn Swat Valley in northern Pakistan, she was attacked by a Taliban gunman, who also wounded two girls with her.

"On October 9, they shot at the left side of my head and thought that bullets can silence me, but they failed," Malala said.

She appealed to governments to make education a priority, saying that failure would be "unacceptable."

"The extremists are afraid of books, of girls and boys going to school, and that is why they kill innocent people. They are afraid of change and equality," Malala said.

Malala was introduced to the assembly, attended by more than 500 youth leaders from 85 countries and British ex-prime minister Gordon Brown, who serves as UN special envoy for education. He called her a "new superpower for education."

Brown said 4 million people had signed a petition supporting Malala's education campaign.

"Malala, this is not a celebration of your birthday," Brown said. "This is a celebration of what you have called a second life."

She was flown a few days after the shooting to Britain, where she was hospitalized for months while recuperating and undergoing rehabilitation.

She now lives with her family in Birmingham in central England, with her parents and two brothers.

Malala was greeted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other UN officials, and the youth assembly sang happy birthday to her.

Education for young people is one of the UN's major goals in a world where more than half of the population of 7.2 billion are under 25.

Ban said Malala was asking government leaders to keep their promises to invest in youths and provide universal education.

"Extremists showed that what they feared the most is a girl with a book," Ban said.

Malala has continued to receive threats posted on social media platforms, prompting Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland to ask Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to fight hate speech on the social network.

"The Council of Europe appreciates Facebook, as it provides a platform for dialogue and positive change throughout the world," Jagland said in a letter to Zuckerberg. "But we worry about inciting hatred and violence on the internet. We cannot tolerate incitement to hatred and violence against Malala."

Jagland cited Malala's Facebook page as saying, "They will not stop me. I will get my education if it is in the home, school, or any place."

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Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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