On this week’s Listening In segment, we take you to United Nations headquarters where Pakistani student and activist Malala Yousafzai gave a speech to the UN Youth Assembly on the importance of girls education on July 12.
The speech was given on her 16th birthday and marked her first public address since she was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen last October.
Malala started her campaign for girls’ education in Pakistan’s Swat Valley where she attended the Khushal Girls High School and College run by her father Ziauddin. The school and all others in the valley were shut down by the Taliban in 2009. That same year, at age 11, Malala was urged by her father to write a blog for BBC Urdu about her experiences under Taliban rule. She used the blog to emphasize the importance of protecting the rights of Pakistani girls. The Taliban viewed her as a threat to the Islamic system in Swat and planned her execution. But their attempt to silence Malala failed.
Wearing the shawl of late female Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto, the Nobel Peace Prize nominee reassured the world that the Taliban’s attack only strengthened her fight for an equal education.
“The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions,” she said. “But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”
Malala thanked doctors and well-wishers around the world for their support during her months of recovery. She expressed her understanding of the Taliban’s fear of educated women but urged non-violent means to tackling such intolerance. She urged governments worldwide to provide free education to every child, declaring education as the key to a peaceful future.
“…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.”