Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has a special focus on education for women and girls. Because of this, she has recently been named a United Nations Messenger of Peace. Malala was named the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize at only 17, and now, she is the youngest UN Messenger of Peace recipient at 19.
Yousafzai first became an advocate for women’s education when she was 11 years old. Living under Taliban rule in Pakistan at the time, Yousafzai began to blog anonymously about her experiences and the girls’ rights to education. When the Taliban realized Yousafzai was writing this blog for the BBC’s Urdu language site, they were quick to respond.
On October 9, 2012, when Yousafzai was just 15 years old, she was attacked on a school bus and shot in the head. In that moment she realized how far some people would go to oppress women and girls. After she had finally healed, she said, “I realized that extremists tried all their best to stop me; they tried to kill me and they didn’t succeed. And it is clear evidence that no one can stop me. This means that now this is a new life, a second life, and it is for the purpose of education.”
She recently spoke about this topic, “Education is the right of every child and, especially for girls, this right should not be neglected. If we want to go forward, we have to give education to girls. And, once you educate girls, you change the whole community, the whole society.”
Yousafzai recognizes the importance of reaching equality in education, as women will not be treated equally if they do not have access to the same education. By having access to a good education system, girls can hope to reach any career.
He talked about Yousafzai’s work, which led to her distinction, saying that her dedicated service has been directly in line with the ideals and objectives of the United Nations. These objectives include the UN’s vision of a life of dignity for all people.
Guterres called Yousafzai’s work the “courageous defense” of the rights of all people, especially women and girls, education, and equality. He also noted her “unwavering dedication to peace” even in the face of danger.
Yousafzai has recently visited the Chibok girls in Nigeria, worked on opening two schools in Lebanon for Syrian refugees, and has invested in the education of young girls in Pakistan. She plans to continue this incredible work as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, a title that she inarguably deserves.
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