Malala Yousufzai was to take over the UN yesterday, nine months after a Taliban gunman put a bullet in her head believing he was ending the Pakistani teenager’s campaign for girls’ education.
The girl was to mark her 16th birthday with her first public speech since making a near miraculous recovery from the attack on a school bus near her home in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.
Doctors had to place a titanium plate over the hole in her skull and her hearing has been badly affected.
However, Malala has become a global superstar and a favorite to become the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner.
She has already been named as one of Time magazine’s most influential people this year and has reportedly secured a US$3 million contract for a book on her life story.
“This frail young girl who was seriously injured has become such a powerful symbol not just for the girls’ right to education, but for the demand that we do something about it immediately,” said former British prime minister Gordon Brown, UN envoy on education who organized World Malala Day.
Malala was expected to use her speech at a UN youth assembly to lecture UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and any listening world leaders on the need to keep a promise to provide universal primary education by the end of 2015.
She was also to hand over a petition to Ban signed by more than 330,000 people calling on the 193 UN member states to finance teachers, schools and books to meet the education goal.
“From the day that terrible shooting — assassination attempt — took place, Malala Yousufzai is a symbol for the rights of girls, and indeed the rights of all young people, to an education,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
The Taliban made it clear that the aim of the shooting was to let the world know that girls have no right to equality at school.
Now, more girls than ever before are attending schools in the Swat Valley.
However, the UN estimates that 57 million children of primary school age do not get an education — half of them in countries at conflict like Syria.