Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head by the Taliban last year for her advocacy of education for girls, marked her 16th birthday by calling on governments around the world to provide free education for every child.
Yousafzai, who was attacked on a bus in Pakistan’s Swat valley, told a United Nations youth assembly in New York she would not be silenced and instead resumed her campaign to eradicate poverty and illiteracy. “Let’s wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism,” she told the 500-strong audience. “Let us pick up our books and our pens – they are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution.” Yousafzai denounced the attack on her and two of her school friends and urged women around the world to be “brave” in the struggle against oppression. Speaking from a raised platform and wearing a pink shawl she said belonged to the late Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto, Yousafzai said: “The extremists were, and they are, afraid of books and paper. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of women frightens them. "They were and they are afraid of change, afraid of the equality that we will bring into our society." UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon declared July 12, her birthday, as “Malala Day”. Introducing Yousafzai, former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown called her “the most courageous girl in the world.” Yousafzai was treated in a British hospital after the attack and now attends school in the UK. She has also launched the Malala Fund to support efforts to education young women in Pakistan and around the world. “I am not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group,” she said. “I am here to speak up for the right of education of every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the extremists.”