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Malala Yousafzai's memorable UN speech still inspires people as she celebrates her 26th birthday

The youngest Nobel Prize laureate turned 26 on July 12, 2023 and it's the perfect time to take a look back at her iconic speech at the UN assembly.

Malala Yousafzai's memorable UN speech still inspires people as she celebrates her 26th birthday
Cover Image Source: Malala Yousafzai speaks during Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020 on May 16, 2020—Getty Images | Getty Images for EIF & XQ)

The world is familiar with Malala Yousafzai and what she went through to become one of the most iconic figures in the world of education activism, especially for women. According to the United Nations Organization, Malala fell victim to the Taliban's attack on October 9, 2012, while returning home from school with her friends. After terrorists shot Malala, the news coverage about the incident received worldwide attention and condemnation. Over 2 million people in Pakistan signed a right-to-education petition and the National Assembly ratified Pakistan's first Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill.

Image Source: Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for girls education, who was shot in the head by the Taliban, speaks at the United Nations (UN) Youth Assembly on July 12, 2013 in New York City. The United Nations declared July 12,
Image Source: Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for girls' education, who was shot in the head by the Taliban, speaks at the United Nations (UN) Youth Assembly on July 12, 2013, in New York City. The United Nations declared July 12, "Malala Day." Yousafzai also celebrates her birthday today—Getty Images | Andrew Burton

Malala survived the harrowing attack and recovered. Not only that, she received the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2014. Secretary-General António Guterres designated Malala as a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 2017 to help raise awareness of the importance of girls' education. On her 16th birthday in 2013, she delivered a powerful speech at the United Nations Assembly, still remembered by people on various occasions. The education activist, who turned 26 in 2023 and has been living a prosperous life with her husband, still continues her activism work. July 12, which is celebrated as International Malala Day, calls for a revisit to the iconic speech she delivered at the UN.



 

"In the name of God, the most merciful, the most beneficent," she started the speech and went on to address UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon, President General Assembly Vuk Jeremic and UN Envoy for Global Education Mr. Gordon Brown. She thanked every soul who prayed for her fast recovery from the gunshot wound. She mentioned receiving thousands of cards and gifts wishing her well from all over the world. "Thank you to the children whose innocent words encouraged me. Thank you to my elders whose prayers strengthened me," she continued.

"There are hundreds of human rights activists and social workers who are not only speaking for human rights but are struggling to achieve their goals of education, peace and equality. Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them. I speak not for myself, but for all girls and boys. I raise up my voice — not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard," she said in her speech, which has been uploaded on her website called Malala Fund.

Image Source: Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for girls education who was shot in the head by the Taliban, speaks at the United Nations (UN) Youth Assembly on July 12, 2013 in New York City. The United Nations declared July 12,
Image Source: Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for girls' education who was shot in the head by the Taliban, speaks at the United Nations (UN) Youth Assembly on July 12, 2013, in New York City. The United Nations declared July 12, "Malala Day." Yousafzai also celebrates her birthday today—Getty Images | Andrew Burton

"Dear Friends, on the 9th of October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And then, out of that silence came thousands of voices," she recalled her own story. "The terrorists thought they would change our aims and stop our ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. 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."

Image Source: Malala Yousafzai speaks at a press conference during the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations on September 25, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
Image Source: Malala Yousafzai speaks at a press conference during the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations on September 25, 2015, in New York City—Getty Images | Jemal Countess

Malala also said that she does not hold any grudges against her attackers and neither was she delivering her speech as a "personal revenge" against any terrorist group. She clarified that she is only speaking up for the right to education that every child deserves. She talks about the compassion she has learned from Muhammad—the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha and how prominent revolutionary figures like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali Jinnah inspire her.

Image Source: Malala Yousafzai delivers her acceptance speech during the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony at Oslo City Town Hall on December 10, 2014 in Oslo, Norway. (Photo by Nigel Waldron/Getty Images)
Image Source: Malala Yousafzai delivers her acceptance speech during the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony at Oslo City Town Hall on December 10, 2014, in Oslo, Norway—Getty Images | Nigel Waldron

She addresses how she focuses on women's rights and girls' education because they are the ones suffering the most in society. "There was a time when women social activists asked men to stand up for their rights. But, this time, we will do it by ourselves. I am not telling men to step away from speaking for women's rights, rather I am focusing on women to be independent to fight for themselves," she added. Urging her "brothers" and "sisters" to speak up for themselves, she called upon all the world leaders, governments and developed nations to join in the fight against terrorism and the brutality it brings.

Image Source: Malala Yousafzai and Asser Malik attend the 95th Annual Academy Awards on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images )
Image Source: Malala Yousafzai and Asser Malik attend the 95th Annual Academy Awards on March 12, 2023, in Hollywood, California—Getty Images | Arturo Holmes

"Dear brothers and sisters, we must not forget that millions of people are suffering from poverty, injustice and ignorance. We must not forget that millions of children are out of school. We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are waiting for a bright peaceful future. So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons," she concluded, but not before delivering one of the most memorable lines from her speech. "One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first," she said.



 



 

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