The U.N. declared today “Malala Day,” but who is Malala?
Malala Yousafzai is the Pakistani teenager and advocate for girls’ education who was shot in the head and neck by Taliban gunmen last October in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.
Today, she turned 16 and spent her birthday addressing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and 1,000 students from around the world at a Youth Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, according to Reuters. It was the first public speech she has given since last October.
“One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution,” she said, stressing the importance of education as a human right, especially for girls.
According to a UNESCO and Save the Children joint study that was released to coincide with her speech, 57 million children around the world do not attend school. In her speech, Malala urged world leaders to fund free, universal education for those who cannot go to school, especially for those living in conflict areas. According to Reuters, she presented a petition signed by nearly four million to the Secretary-General, entreating world leaders to fund books, schools, and teachers so every child can receive an education.
Just five months after Malala was shot in October, Shahnaz Bibi, a female Pakistani teacher and headmistress, was killed by gunshot by two motorcyclists while she was on her way to the primary school where she taught in Peshawar, Pakistan. The global education-funding petition was started after Malala suffered gunshot wounds but more incidents like Bibi’s murder have kept the awareness and number of signatures rising.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, listens as Malala Yousafzai, right, addresses the “Malala Day” Youth Assembly on Friday at United Nations headquarters in New York. —Mary Altaffer/AP
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.