At the 2013 Fourth Estate Summit, Ambassador Samantha Power stated in her speech that there is one name that will “forever be synonymous with dignity and bravery.” That name is Malala Yousafzai. Now 16, Malala is an advocate for the equal rights of girls’ education in Pakistan. Until the age of 15, Pakistan had been Malala’s only home – that is, until she was shot in the head by Taliban on her way home from school and flown to Birmingham, U.K. in critical condition.
Now, almost a year after the assassination attempt, Malala returned yesterday to Birmingham, her “second home, after [her] beloved Pakistan,” to deliver a speech at the inauguration of the Library of Birmingham. Addressing the audience as “dear brothers and sisters,” Malala spoke from her heart of the importance of books, the necessity of education, and the power of knowledge:
“Pens and books are the weapons that will defeat terrorism. I truly believe the only way we can create global peace is through educating not only our minds, but our hearts and souls. This is the way forward to our destiny of peace and prosperity.”
Malala is an example of how to pioneer the path towards peace, but Ambassador Power made an important observation about Malala: that the most powerful weapon against terrorism and oppression is not just a pen or a book, but Malala herself – a dignified, brave individual. Malala is a voice of advocacy in the Middle East for all the young women who are being denied the right not only to education, but also to peace and justice. There are hundreds of women and children in East and central Africa that are also being denied these rights because they have either been abducted or displaced by Joseph Kony’s rebel army. Every human being deserves the opportunity to read and write and learn and live without the threat of violence. Whether it’s the Taliban or the LRA, Malala proves that action is the best reaction to injustice, and we intend to raise our voices along hers to demand a world with zero people are being denied basic human rights.
Malala ended her speech with this:
“And let us not forget that even one book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.”
How right she is – for Malala, in embodying all of these things, is doing just that.