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article imageVid: Malala Yousafzai addresses UN on 16th birthday (Full speech)

By JohnThomas Didymus     Jul 12, 2013 in World
New York - Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot by Taliban gunmen in Pakistan's north-western Swat valley because of her girl's rights activism, addressed the UN today on her 16th birthday.
The UN declared Friday Malala Day. According to the BBC, the event to mark the day was organized by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education.
Gordon Brown opened the session by introducing Malala to an audience of over 1,000 youths from about 85 countries, saying it was a "miracle" that she was present at the UN to celebrate her 16th birthday. He said: "Let me say the words the Taliban never wanted you to hear — happy 16th birthday Malala."
Dressed in a pink shawl that belonged to the assassinated Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto, which she said she was proud to wear, Malala took to the podium at the UN headquarters in New York, her first major public appearance, amid cheers and ovation in the presence of her mother, father and other members of her family.
She addressed the audience, saying that the day was "not my day" but a day for people around the world fighting for their rights. She said: "Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured... I am just one of them. So here I stand, one girl among many... I speak not for myself but for those without voice ... those who have fought for their rights — their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated."
She said: "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."
She stressed that peace was "necessary for education," and added: "In many parts of the world, especially Pakistan and Afghanistan, terrorism, war and conflict stop children to go to their schools. We are really tired of these wars. Women and children are suffering... all the peace deals must protect women’s and children’s rights. A deal that goes against the rights of women is unacceptable.”
She went on to say that she harbored no hatred or a desire for revenge against those who shot and nearly killed her. She said: "I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there was a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me, I would not shoot him."
She said she has learned from the world's great spiritual leaders, including "Muhammad, the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha" and also derived inspiration from great civil leaders like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mohandas Gandhi and Mother Teresa.
She said she believes in non-violence and learned "forgiveness... from my father and from my mother."
She insisted that Islam is a religion of "peace, humanity and brotherhood" and accused the Taliban of "misusing the name of Islam...for their own personal benefit." She continued: "The extremists were and they are afraid of books and pens, the power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women, the power of the voice of women frightens them, and that is why they killed 14 innocent students in the recent attack in Quetta."
She called for universal education, especially for women, saying: "they are the ones who suffer the most," and urged: "Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons... One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first."
She said that the efforts of the Taliban fanatics to silence her have failed, and that the ordeal had only strengthened her resolve. She said: "The terrorists thought that they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life, except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born... I am the same Malala, my ambitions are the same, my hopes are the same and my dreams are the same.”
Malala's ordeal has done a lot to help bring the issue of women's education back to focus. According to the BBC, a quarter of the young women around the world have not completed elementary school. International aid agencies say that Pakistan has one of the highest rates of children out of school.
The BBC reports UNESCO estimates that 95 percent of 28.5 million children who are not getting a basic school education live in poorer countries: 44 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, 19 percent in South and West Asia and 14 percent in the Arab states, with girls making up about 55 percent of the total.
She presented UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon with a petition signed by more than three million on behalf of more than 50 million children worldwide who are unable to go to school.
Malala was flown from Pakistan to the UK for treatment after she was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen. She now lives in Birmingham, England.
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