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Malala Yousafzai's Message to the United Nations

When the sixteen-year-old from Pakistan was shot in the head by men from the Taliban

It was a shock to the world when young Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head in Mingora, Pakistan, on October 12, 2012. She had been riding on a bus when she was cruelly attacked by men from the Taliban. After the devastating attack, it was uncertain whether she would survive. But on July 12, 2013, just nine months later, the strong and smiling Malala stood before leaders and youth at the United Nations headquarters to give a speech for “Malala Day,” a holiday declared in honor of her birthday.

Malala described how the violent attack in October changed her life. Although she suffered from physical pain, it didn’t stop her from becoming stronger and more dedicated to her goals than before. She said, “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.”

Malala talked about children’s education rights through her speech. She noted that "the extremists were, and they are, afraid of books and pens...The power of education frightens them.” She called upon all leaders of the world to provide free access to education for all children, and declared that “one child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world...Education is the only solution. Education first."

Referencing Gandhi and other peaceful activists, Malala explained her belief in taking a peaceful approach to advocating change. Books and pens, she said, are the real weapons of change, not guns. She stressed that she did not hold a grudge against the man who shot her, and that she had no desire for revenge. Her true desire was for the education of all children, including the children of the terrorists and extremists. She admitted, “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.”

At just 16 years of age, Malala has already become an influence for a lot of good in the world. Not only has she advocated peaceful change and become the champion of children’s education, she has been nominated for many prestigious awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize. Upon seeing this young activist’s inspiring strength and conviction, one can’t help but think of the line from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “Though she be but little, she is fierce.”

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