George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight | On Her 16th Birthday, Malala Yousafzai Urges The UN To Advance Education
Social Issues
On Her 16th Birthday, Malala Yousafzai Urges The UN To Advance Education
July 12, 2013
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malala-reading-feature.jpg
Malala reads a book at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England during her recovery (Photo: AP)

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban last October, turns 16 today.

Her birthday has been designated Malala Day, and she's speaking at a special session of the United Nations about education as a universal human right.

Here's an excerpt from the speech:

Malala is pressing world leaders to work harder to deliver education for all, with a particular focus on women and girls.

In her speech, Malala talks about the importance of compassion. She says she has no desire for revenge against the Taliban, including the men who shot her.

She cites the examples of Nelson Mandela, Jesus, the Prophet Muhammad, Mother Teresa and others who she says have taught her about compassion.

According to Malala, "the extremists were and they are afraid of the power of education."

That is why, she says, they have committed murders and attacked schools and educators.

"They think that God is a tiny little conservative being who would send girls to hell just for going to school," she says.

Malala says that there was a time when female activists asked men to stand up for their rights.

"But this time, we are standing up for ourselves," she continues.

She also urged men to be a part of the solution to the crisis of education, but said that women and girls must fight for their own rights.

"Education is the only solution. Education first. Thank you," she concluded.

malala-burned-out-bus.jpgMalala's message is especially poignant after a brutal suicide attack on a bus in Pakistan last month left 14 female students dead. The shot on the left shows the burned-out remains of the bus.

The attack took place exactly eight months after Malala was shot.

A female suicide bomber hid herself among the women on the bus, who had just completed their day's studies at an all-women medical college in the city of Quetta.

When dozens of casualties of the explosion were taken to a nearby hospital, three other suicide bombers opened fire, attacking both the injured and the doctors, nurses and relatives at the hospital, killing at least eight more people and taking hostages before detonating their own explosives.

Gordon Brown, former British Prime Minister, wrote in the Daily Beast that "the al Qaeda-inspired war against girls' education" is "dramatically escalating after already closing more than 1,000 girls' schools and colleges in Pakistan, Afghanistan and parts of Africa in recent years."

At today's event, Malala presented a petition, signed by millions of people online, demanding better access to education for the world's out-of-school children. At the UN, Brown announced that over a million people have signed the petition in the last few days alone.

According to Brown, 40 million children have been admitted to schools since 2000. But at the moment, 57 million of the most vulnerable kids have no access to education.

15 million of those without school places are child labourers. 10 million of them are school-age girls who will be forced into child marriages.

Here's the full text of the petition:

"Dear Mr Secretary-General,

I stand with Malala in demanding that the leaders of the world end our global Education Emergency. After the recent violent murder of 14 girls in Pakistan who simply wanted an education, I support the civil rights struggle of 57 million girls and boys who will not go to school today -- or any day. Side by side with Malala, we demand that at the United Nations General Assembly, world leaders agree to fund the new teachers, schools and books we need -- and to end child labour, child marriage and child trafficking -- so that by December 2015 we meet the Millennium Development goal promise that every boy and girl be at school.

We must be united in this fight, and we must act now. Thank you for standing with us."

If you'd like to make your voice heard, you can sign the petition at AWorldAtSchool.org.

Malala's story has inspired some parents in Pakistan to send their children to school, according to the BBC.

malala-schoolgirls.jpg"I used to tell my father I want to go to school," 10-year-old Tasleem told reporter Orla Guerin. "He always said no. But when my parents heard about Malala's story they said you should go to school. When I started I didn't know anything. Then my teacher explained things to me. I learnt how to read and write, and a lot of other things."

Still, in terms of numbers, the news is not good in the country: Pakistan has the second-highest number of kids out of school of any country in the world, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

UNESCO reports that about 5.4 million primary school age children in the country aren't receiving an education, and another seven million adolescents are out of school.

Via Inhabitat

Related:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper Signs Petition To Nominate Malala Yousafzai For The Nobel Peace Prize

Malala Yousafzai Released From Hospital Nearly Three Months After Being Shot In The Head By The Taliban

Tens Of Thousands Of People Around The World Sign Petition For Malala Yousafzai To Be Honoured With Nobel Peace Prize

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