At the age of 17, Malala Yousafzai has inspired millions with her courageous advocacy for a right many 17-year olds take for granted – the right to education.
Malala Yousafzai has become the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, yet her campaign for girls’ education started at the age of 11. Three years later she would be shot by the Taliban for speaking out.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called Malala “… a brave and gentle advocate of peace who through the simple act of going to school became a global teacher.”
The world became her classroom when she delivered her address on education to the United Nations Youth Assembly on ‘Malala Day’, her 16th birthday in July, 2013. She urged “Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One teacher, one book, one pen, can change the world.”
When meeting President Obama, she urged American policy in her home region of the Swat Valley to change. “Instead of soldiers, send books. Instead of sending weapons, send pens,” she said.
Access to education is a platform born from her deep belief and personal commitment to learning. In fact, she was called from her High School chemistry class to hear she had been awarded the Nobel prize.
The New York Times reports that she called the prize “an encouragement for me to go forward and believe in myself,” before adding “It’s not going to help me in my tests and exams.”