Malala at UN, unbowed by Taliban, seeks universal education
Pakistani education advocate Malala Yousafzai, seriously wounded in a Taliban attack in Pakistan last year, told the United Nations on Friday she would not be defeated by extremists trying to prevent boys and girls from going to school, dpa reported.
"I am here to speak up for the right to education for every child," Malala told her UN Youth Assembly audience at UN headquarters in New York, on her 16th birthday.
"One child, one teacher and one book can change the world," she said.
"On October 9, they shot at the left side of my head and thought that bullets can silence me, but they failed," she said, referring to the incident in the Swat Valley, in northern Pakistan, when Taliban militants opened fired on her school bus.
She appealed to governments to make education a priority, saying that failure to do so would be "unacceptable."
"The extremists are afraid of books, of girls and boys going to school, and that is why they kill innocent people. They are afraid of change and equality," she said.
Malala was introduced to the assembly, attended by more than 500 youth leaders from 85 countries and former British prime minister Gordon Brown, the UN special envoy for education. He called her a "new superpower for education."
Brown said 4 million people had signed a petition supporting Malala's education campaign.
"Malala, this is not a celebration of your birthday," Brown said. "This is a celebration of what you have called a second life."
Malala spent months recovering in hospitals in her own country as well as in Britain.
During Malala's appearance in New York, the youth leaders sang Happy Birthday to her. She was greeted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other UN officials.
Malala has not only faced extremist violence in person. Messages posted on Facebook contain threats against her, prompting the Council of Europe's Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland to ask Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to fight hate speech on the social network.
"The Council of Europe appreciates Facebook, as it provides a platform for dialogue and positive change throughout the world," Jagland said in a letter to Zuckerberg.
"But we worry about inciting hatred and violence on the internet," he said. "We cannot tolerate incitement to hatred and violence against Malala."
Jagland cited Malala's Facebook page as saying, "They will not stop me. I will get my education if it is in the home, school, or any place."