November 16, 2018

If you educate a woman, you educate a whole nation

World's first secular school for Muslim girls was opened in 1901 in Baku, Azerbaijan

World’s first secular school for Muslim girls was opened in 1901 in Baku, Azerbaijan

 

I just finished reading “Malala’s Magic Pencil”, an autobiographical picture book, written by Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, together with my daughter, who is going to return to school next month. It is an incredible and fascinating story of a girl who is fighting for education and peace, and delivers a powerful and inspirational message not only for kids, but for everyone.

Today unfortunately in many parts of the world women’s rights are still being suppressed, and millions of women are out of school and cannot get basic education. I feel lucky and proud that my daughter grows up in a majority-Muslim country, where women get free, compulsory and quality education, and play a significant role in the political, economic and social life of the country.

Education of women in Azerbaijan has evolved significantly since the beginning of the 20th century. In 1901, the very first secular school for Muslim girls in the entire Muslim world was opened in Baku at the initiative of the great Azerbaijani philanthropist Haji Zeynalabdin Tagiyev. This pioneer project inspired Muslim communities in other parts of the Russian Empire, which Azerbaijan was part of then, to establish similar secular schools.

In 1908 Hamida Javanshir, great-great-grandniece of the Karabakh region’s last ruling Khan (Ibrahim Khalil Khan) and wife of the famous Azerbaijani writer Jalil Mammadguluzade, founded a coeducational school in her home village of Kahrizli, which became the first Azerbaijani school, where boys and girls could study in the same classroom.

By 1915, in Baku alone there were 5 schools for Muslim girls. Also around this time, a women’s newspaper called “İşıq” (Light) was published in Baku to support women’s rights and promote education among women.

Moreover, Azerbaijan was the first majority-Muslim country in the world to grant women equal voting rights – in 1919, an entire year before the United States and decades before many Western European nations. It happened after Azerbaijan gained its freedom from the Russian Empire in 1918, establishing the first ever secular democracy among Muslim nations.

In the later decades of the past century, Azerbaijani women got new opportunities to realize their potential and be successful in various fields. During these decades Azerbaijani women pioneered many “firsts” for women in the Muslim world: First female opera singer Shovkat Mammadova, first ballerina Gamar Almaszade, first female pilot Leyla Mammadbeyova, first professionally educated composer Agabaji Rzayeva, etc.

After restoring its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, women’s rights further prospered in Azerbaijan. We have laws in place that assert the protections and respect for women across Azerbaijani society. For example, Article 25 and 34 were added in 1993 to Azerbaijan’s Constitution, ensuring full equality between men and women generally, and equality of men and women within marriage specifically. In 2006, Azerbaijan passed a Gender Equality Law which guarantees that women receive equal pay at work and prohibits discrimination in hiring and promotional practices.

The past 27 years have seen a steady and uphill growth in Azerbaijan, as both the economic, financial and social wellbeing of the country has significantly improved. The country currently boasts a 99 percent literacy level. School enrollment rates for women are at 99.8-100%. Comprising 50.1% of Azerbaijan’s entire population, women constitute about 80% of all employees in education and 65.7% in healthcare. Moreover, 56% of all PhD degree holders, 48.2% of university students, 6 university presidents, 15 college presidents and 1244 school principals in Azerbaijan are women.

The judicial branch of the government has many female judges, comprising around 15 percent of all judges in the country, including Tatiana Goldman, who is Jewish, and Justice at Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court. Goldman is one of the 7 female Supreme Court Justices of Azerbaijan.

The legislative branch is not lagging behind in this regard: there are 20 women in Azerbaijan’s Parliament (out of 125 total), including Bahar Muradova, the Deputy Speaker.

First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva, the highest-ranking woman official in the history of Azerbaijan, is a true inspiration for Azerbaijani women. Her activities in promoting gender equality and women’s education in the country and beyond are tremendous. The First Vice President is known for her tireless humanitarian efforts in Azerbaijan and internationally as UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, and for her advocacy for health, women and children, among so many areas she works on to make the world a better place. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation, led by Mrs. Aliyeva, has built and rebuilt hundreds of new schools in Azerbaijan in a short period of time, even in the most remote villages of the country. The Foundation has also implemented a vast number of international humanitarian projects, including the construction of a new girls’ school in Pakistan for 500 students.

Education of women is a milestone in the development of any society. It is education that can help millions of women around the globe realize their potential and empower them to change the world for the better. A country, a nation cannot progress without women’s education. As Malala Yousafzai mentioned in her famous speech at the UN Youth Assembly, “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world”.

Also there is an old African proverb that says: “If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation”.

An open letter to Nobel Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai from a Palestinian Human Rights Activist

Dear Malala,

We see you have received the Nobel Peace Prize this week in honor of your activity for peace in Pakistan.

We congratulate you for your courage and for not being afraid to fight radical Islam in your nation. 

I write these words as a proud fellow Muslem.

I know how how difficult it is with so many obstacles in your way. 

For that reason,  we need to support you.

We are very proud of you.

I appreciate your decision to contribute your prize money to the children of Palestinian refugees in Gaza, because they really need your help.

I must advise you that if you want to make such a donation, please come here to do so in person and not through  UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency.)

If you send funds through UNRWA,  Palestinian refugee children will never benefit from it, because UNRWA funds in Gaza wind up in the hands of Radical Islam.

You are personally invited to my home and my community in Jerusalem. 

We will organize a trip for you to travel to Gaza to meet Gaza school children and help you contribute your gift directly to children who need your help.

Here are the facts at your finger tips.

That rocket launchers were found at U.N. facilities was hardly surprising. 

Fifteen years ago, the Gaza-based employees of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency held elections to determine its union leaders. 

Hamas took advantage of the campaign and took over the entire school system. 

By 2012, more the 90 percent of UNRWA employees had become Hamas supporters.

As a result of the takeover, Hamas created an entire apparatus whose mission was to maintain its grip on all the Gaza-based UNRWA schools. 

The organization, Al-Kutla Al-Islamiya (the Islamic Bloc), changed the school curriculum and introduced new textbooks. 

Anyone looking at the subject matter would see an organization bent on disseminating its lethal ideology to young Gazans.

The takeover of UNRWA was an “inside job”, carried out by the Hamas representatives assigned to each school and whose job is to recruit students to the Islamic Bloc. 

This ensures  that UNRWA schools have programs that prepare pupils for the armed struggle against Israel. 

This involves grooming children as “would-be shaheeds [martyrs]” and brainwashing them on the unachieveable “right of return” to Arab villages from before 1948 that no longer exist.

For you to get a an idea of the indoctrination that is taking place in Gaza, it would suffice to look at the Islamic Bloc’s YouTubeclips, which feature UNRWA instructors acting at Hamas’ bidding.

The footage clearly shows that Gaza children are not introduced to the values of the U.N. but rather to the values of jihad, “liberation of Palestine”  and the “right of return,” by force or arms.

Despite all this being an open secret — all of UNRWA’s donors are in the know, including the United States and Israel — the organization is still considered a welfare and relief agency that could provide an “alternative to Hamas.” 

But if you ask Gazans what UNRWA has done for them, they would say “nothing,” (that is, except perpetuate their refugee status). Hamas knows the reason.

It has a vested interest in ensuring that conditions of poverty remain unchanged and that the millions of greenbacks keep flowing in. 

This keeps the “right of return” relevant.

To state it simply: Donors hand funds to UNRWA officials who are affiliated with Hamas who then act according to principles of Radical Islam, not of the UN principles. 

Rockets and tunnels had been the most pressing concern from Gaza this past summer. 

Over the long haul, it is the Hamas brainwashing of Gazan schoolchildren that should have us worried.

In peace,

Bassem Eid,

Human Rights Activist, Political Analyst and Commentator on the  Israeli-Palestinian Conflict & on Internal Palestinian Politics.

 

Malala, Satyarthi receive their Nobel Prizes for child campaigns

Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, shot by the Taliban for refusing to quit school, and Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi received their Nobel Peace Prizes on Wednesday after two days of celebration honoring their work for children's rights.

Malala became by far the youngest laureate, widely praised for her global campaigning since she was shot in the head on her school bus in 2012. Some groups in Pakistan, however, have accused her of being a puppet of the West and violating the tenets of conservative Islam.

“I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not,” said Malala, 17, better known by her first name, which is also the title of her book and the name of her foundation.

“It is the story of many girls,” she said in Oslo's ornate city hall on the anniversary of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel's death.

Although the focus was undoubtedly on Oslo on Wednesday, Nobel Prize winners in literature, chemistry, physics, medicine and economics were gathering in Stockholm, due to receive their prizes from the King of Sweden later in the day.

Satyarthi, who is credited with saving around 80,000 children from slave labor sometimes in violent confrontations, kept a modest profile in Oslo and even conceded to being overshadowed by Malala surrounded by admirers.

“I've lost two of my colleagues,” Satyarthi said about his work. “Carrying the dead body of a colleague who is fighting for the protection of children is something I'll never forget, even as I sit here to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Arriving in Norway with friends and young activists from PakistanSyria and Nigeria, Malala met thousands of children, walked the streets to greet supporters and will open an exhibit where her blood stained dress, worn when her school bus was attacked, was put on display.

“She's very brave and tough, fighting even after the Taliban shot her in the head,” said Andrea, 12, who was among thousands of children hoping to greet Malala in downtown Oslo.

The award could also help the Norwegian Nobel Committee repair its reputation, damaged by controversial awards in recent years to the European Union and U.S. President Barack Obama.

“I am pretty certain that I am also the first recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize who still fights with her younger brothers,” Malala said. “I want there to be peace everywhere, but my brothers and I are still working on that.”

Malala Yousafzai becomes world’s youngest Nobel Prize winner

Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating girls' right to education, and Indian children's right activist Kailash Satyarthi won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

Yousafzai, aged 17, becomes the youngest Nobel Prize winner by far.

Satyarthi, 60, and Yousafzai were picked for their struggle against the oppression of children and young people, and for the right of all children to education, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said. 

The award was made at a time when hostilities have broken out between India and Pakistan along the border of the disputed, mainly Muslim region of Kashmir – the worst fighting between the nuclear-armed rivals in more than a decade.

“The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism,” said Thorbjoern Jagland, the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Yousafzai was attacked in 2012 on a school bus in the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan by masked gunmen as a punishment for a blog that she started writing for the BBC's Urdu service as an 11-year-old to campaign against the Taliban's efforts to deny women an education.

Unable to return to Pakistan after her recovery, Yousafzai moved to Britain, setting up the Malala Fund and supporting local education advocacy groups with a focus on Pakistan, Nigeria, Jordan, Syria and Kenya.

Satyarthi, who gave up a career as an electrical engineer in 1980 to campaign against child labor, has headed various forms of peaceful protests and demonstrations, focusing on the exploitation of children for financial gain.

“It's an honor to all those children still suffering in slavery, bonded labor and trafficking,” Satyarthi told TV news channel CNN-IBN after learning he won the prize.

In a recent editorial, Satyarthi said that data from non-government organizations indicated that child laborers could number 60 million in India or 6 percent of the total population.

“Children are employed not just because of parental poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, failure of development and education programs, but quite essentially due to the fact that employers benefit immensely from child labor as children come across as the cheapest option, sometimes working even for free,” he wrote.

Children are employed illegally and companies use the financial gain to bribe officials, creating a vicious cycle, he argued.

Yousafzai last year addressed the U.N. Youth Assembly in an event Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called “Malala Day”. This year she traveled to Nigeria to demand the release of 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamist group Boko Haram.

“To the girls of Nigeria and across Africa, and all over the world, I want to say: don't let anyone tell you that you are weaker than or less than anything,” she said in a speech.

“You are not less than a boy,” Yousafzai said. “You are not less than a child from a richer or more powerful country. You are the future of your country. You are going to build it strong. It is you who can lead the charge.”

The prize, worth about $1.1 million, will be presented in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the award in his 1895 will.

The previous youngest winner was Australian-born British scientist Lawrence Bragg, who was 25 when he shared the Physics Prize with his father in 1915

Obama says Nobel Peace Prize choice a victory for human dignity

President Barack Obama congratulated Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian campaigner against child trafficking, for winning the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, calling it a victory for those who uphold human dignity.

“Today's announcement is a victory for all who strive to uphold the dignity of every human being,” Obama, himself a Nobel Peace Prize winner, said in a statement.

“In recognizing Malala and Kailash, the Nobel Committee reminds us of the urgency of their work to protect the rights and freedoms of all our young people and to ensure they have the chance to fulfill their God-given potential, regardless of their background, or gender, or station in life.”

Yousafzai, aged 17, was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating for girls' right to education. Obama said he and his wife, Michelle, had been awestruck by her courage.

“Malala and Kailash have faced down threats and intimidation, risking their own lives to save others and build a better world for future generations,” Obama said.

“Even as we celebrate their achievements, we must recommit ourselves to the world that they seek – one in which our daughters have the right and opportunity to get an education; and in which all children are treated equally.”

Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by David Storey and Richard Chang

Pakistani teenager, shot by Taliban, wins EU human rights prize

Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, shot in the head by the Taliban for campaigning for education for girls, won the European Union's annual human rights award on Thursday, beating fugitive U.S. intelligence analyst Edward Snowden.

The 16-year-old was attacked last year while on a school bus in northwestern Pakistan, but recovered after medical treatment in Britain. She is also a favorite among experts and betting agencies to be named the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

“She is an icon of courage for all teenagers who dare to pursue their aspirations and, like a candle, she lights a path out of darkness,” said Joseph Daul, chairman of the centre-right European People's Party in the European Parliament.

Yousafzai started her campaigning by writing blogs in 2009 in which she described how the militant Islamist Taliban prevented girls like her from going to school.

She quickly rose to international fame when more and more foreign media outlets conducted interviews with her. Her growing profile attracted the Taliban's attention and led to frequent death threats.

“I was not worried about myself that much. I was worried about my father. We could not believe they would be so cruel as to kill a child, as I was 14 at the time,” Yousafzai said in a U.S. television interview with “The Daily Show” on Tuesday.

Her book “I Am Malala” is currently the second-best selling book on Amazon.com.

The Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought has been awarded by the European Parliament each year since 1988 to commemorate Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov. Its past winners include Nelson Mandela and Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Yousafzai was chosen by a vote among the heads of all the political groups in the 750-member parliament.

Snowden had been nominated by the Green group in the parliament for what it said was his enormous service to human rights and European citizens when he disclosed secret U.S. telephone and Internet surveillance programs.

Reporting by Justyna Pawlak and Robert-Jan Bartunek; editing by Luke Baker and Mark Trevelyan.

Video: Malala Yousafzai talks with Jon Stewart

Pakistan’s Malala challenges world leaders to educate Syrian refugees

Pakistani education crusader Malala Yousafzai and other youth activists challenged world leaders on Monday to come up with $175 million to educate 400,000 Syrian children who fled to neighboring Lebanon to escape a civil war in their homeland.

As leaders gather in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, Yousafzai, 16, who was shot in the head by the Taliban last year for demanding education for girls, and U.N. education envoy Gordon Brown received $1 million from campaign group Avaaz to kick off the push for money to send Syrian refugees to school.

U.N. children's agency UNICEF said 257,000 Syrian children were seeking education in Lebanon in 2013 and that was set to rise to 400,000 next year, swamping the Lebanese public school system that already educates 300,000 children.

“I can feel what's happening in Syria because it's what happened to us in Pakistan,” Yousafzai said of being displaced by violence as she spoke with Syrian student Farah Haddad, 20, in New York. Yousafzai is now at school in Britain because she cannot safely return to Pakistan.

Haddad, who finished high school in Syria and moved to the United States in 2011 to attend college, has taken up the fight for education for Syrian refugee children.

“When the war is ended, there will be no way for us to bring back the dead, or mend the hearts of mothers in Syria, but we can surely equip Syrian children to wrestle with a Syria when the bombs stop exploding,” said Haddad.

Former British Prime Minister Brown announced on Monday a plan by the Overseas Development Institute to educate those 400,000 Syrian children by employing Syrian refugees who were teachers, opening Lebanese schools 24 hours a day to teach children in double or triple shifts and providing school meals.

“A 100 years ago the Red Cross secured the right that health care should be provided even in conflict. We want in this generation to secure the right of every child to education even when there's a conflict,” Brown told reporters.

LOST GENERATION

“Instead of 400,000 Syrian children doing nothing … perhaps becoming unemployable, a lost generation, a wasted generation, childhood destroyed, we can actually show that in the next few months these 400,000 children can actually get the opportunities they so richly deserve,” Brown said.

Brown said $175 million was needed to implement the education plan in Lebanon. Avaaz raised its $1 million donation in the past week from more than 32,000 people in 143 countries, and Western Union also announced it will match consumer donations to its newly created education fund up to $100,000.

“The U.N. Security Council … has failed the people of Syria. We can't fix that problem today but I can think we can still determine whether the children of this war become a lost generation or a generation of leaders that can rebuild and renew the hope of the country,” said Avaaz co-founder Ricken Patel.

The U.N. Security Council has been deadlocked over how to try and end the two-and-a-half year Syrian conflict. Russia and China have refused to consider sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad's government and have vetoed three resolutions condemning Assad's crackdown on opposition groups.

A World Bank report said Syria's conflict will cost Lebanon $7.5 billion in cumulative economic losses by the end of 2014. The report was prepared for a U.N. meeting this week to provide humanitarian aid and development assistance and strengthen Lebanon's armed forces.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

Pakistan’s Malala, shot by Taliban, takes education plea to U.N. [VIDEO]

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban last year for demanding education for girls, marked her 16th birthday with a passionate speech at the United Nations on Friday in which she said education could change the world.

“Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution,” said Yousafzai, speaking out for the first time since she was attacked.

Wearing a pink head scarf, Yousafzai told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and nearly 1,000 students attending an international Youth Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York that education was the only way to improve lives.

Yousafzai was shot at close range by gunmen in October as she left school in Pakistan's Swat Valley, northwest of the country's capital Islamabad. She was targeted for her campaign against the Islamist Taliban efforts to deny women education.

“They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed and out of that silence came thousands of voices,” she said to cheers from the students gathered at U.N. hall.

“The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born,” a confident Yousafzai said.

She wore a white shawl draped around her shoulders that had belonged to former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated during a 2007 election rally weeks after she returned to Pakistan from years in self-imposed exile.

“I am not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I'm here to speak up for the right of education for every child,” she said.

“I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists,” she said. “I do not even hate the talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me, I would not shoot him.”

Yousafzai presented Ban with a petition signed by some 4 million people in support of 57 million children around the world who are not able to go to school. It demanded that world leaders fund new teachers, schools and books and end child labor, marriage and trafficking.

Ban said that the United Nations was committed to a target of getting all children in school by the end of 2015.

“No child should have to die for going to school. Nowhere should teachers fear to teach or children fear to learn. Together, we can change this picture,” he said. “Together, let us follow the lead of this brave young girl, Malala.”

TIRED OF WAR

U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, said Friday's event was not just a celebration of Malala's birthday and of her recovery, but of her vision.

He invoked “her dream that nothing, no political indifference, no government inaction, no intimidation, no threats, no assassin's bullets should ever deny the right of every single child … to be able to go to school.”

Brown described Yousafzai's recovery from the attack as a miracle. The teenager was treated in Pakistan before the United Arab Emirates provided an air ambulance to fly her to Britain, where doctors mended parts of her skull with a titanium plate.

Unable to safely return to Pakistan, Yousafzai enrolled in a school in Birmingham, England in March. Her mother wiped away tears on Friday as she watched her daughter thank all those who helped save her life.

Pakistan has 5 million children out of school, a number only surpassed by Nigeria, which has more than 10 million children out of school, according to the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt on Yousafzai, calling her efforts pro-Western. Two of her classmates were also wounded.

The Pakistan Taliban, formally called the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), formed in 2007, is an umbrella group uniting various militant factions operating in the volatile northwestern tribal areas along the porous border with Afghanistan.

Under Taliban rule in neighboring Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, women were forced to cover up and were banned from voting, most work and leaving their homes unless accompanied by a husband or male relative.

“The extremists were and they are afraid of books and pens, the power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women,” Yousafzai said. “When we were in Swat … we realized the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns.”

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Vicki Allen and David Storey

Malala Yousafzai: ‘Our books and our pens are the most powerful weapons’

This is a transcription of the speech that Malala Yousafzai gave to the United Nations on 12 July 2013, the date of her 16th birthday and “Malala Day” at the UN.

In the name of God, the most beneficent, the most merciful.

Honorable UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon, respected president of the General Assembly Vuk Jeremic, honorable UN envoy for global education Mr Gordon Brown, respected elders and my dear brothers and sisters: Assalamu alaikum.

Today is it an honor for me to be speaking again after a long time. Being here with such honorable people is a great moment in my life and it is an honor for me that today I am wearing a shawl of the late Benazir Bhutto. I don't know where to begin my speech. I don't know what people would be expecting me to say, but first of all thank you to God for whom we all are equal and thank you to every person who has prayed for my fast recovery and new life. I cannot believe how much love people have shown me. I have received thousands of good wish cards and gifts from all over the world. Thank you to all of them. Thank you to the children whose innocent words encouraged me. Thank you to my elders whose prayers strengthened me. I would like to thank my nurses, doctors and the staff of the hospitals in Pakistan and the UK and the UAE government who have helped me to get better and recover my strength.

I fully support UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his Global Education First Initiative and the work of UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown and the respectful president of the UN General Assembly Vuk Jeremic. I thank them for the leadership they continue to give. They continue to inspire all of us to action. Dear brothers and sisters, do remember one thing: Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights.

[VIDEO: Malala speaks on education at U.N.]

There are hundreds of human rights activists and social workers who are not only speaking for their rights, but who are struggling to achieve their goal of peace, education and equality. Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them. So here I stand. So here I stand, one girl, among many. I speak not for myself, but so those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights. Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated.

Dear friends, on 9 October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends, too. They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.

I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. And my dreams are the same. Dear sisters and brothers, I am not against anyone. Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I am here to speak for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists. I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there was a gun in my hand and he was standing in front of me, I would not shoot him. This is the compassion I have learned from Mohammed, the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. This the legacy of change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

This is the philosophy of nonviolence that I have learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learned from my father and from my mother. This is what my soul is telling me: be peaceful and love everyone.

Dear sisters and brothers, we realize the importance of light when we see darkness. We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced. In the same way, when we were in Swat, the north of Pakistan, we realized the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns. The wise saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” It is true. The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them. This is why they killed 14 innocent students in the recent attack in Quetta. And that is why they kill female teachers. That is why they are blasting schools every day because they were and they are afraid of change and equality that we will bring to our society. And I remember that there was a boy in our school who was asked by a journalist why are the Taliban against education? He answered very simply by pointing to his book, he said, “a Talib doesn't know what is written inside this book.”

They think that God is a tiny, little conservative being who would point guns at people's heads just for going to school. These terrorists are misusing the name of Islam for their own personal benefit. Pakistan is a peace loving, democratic country. Pashtuns want education for their daughters and sons. Islam is a religion of peace, humanity and brotherhood. It is the duty and responsibility to get education for each child, that is what it says. Peace is a necessity for education. In many parts of the world, especially Pakistan and Afghanistan, terrorism, war and conflicts stop children from going to schools. We are really tired of these wars. Women and children are suffering in many ways in many parts of the world.

In India, innocent and poor children are victims of child labor. Many schools have been destroyed in Nigeria. People in Afghanistan have been affected by extremism. Young girls have to do domestic child labor and are forced to get married at an early age. Poverty, ignorance, injustice, racism and the deprivation of basic rights are the main problems, faced by both men and women.

Today I am focusing on women's rights and girls' education because they are suffering the most. There was a time when women activists asked men to stand up for their rights. But this time we will do it by ourselves. I am not telling men to step away from speaking for women's rights, but I am focusing on women to be independent and fight for themselves. So dear sisters and brothers, now it's time to speak up. So today, we call upon the world leaders to change their strategic policies in favor of peace and prosperity. We call upon the world leaders that all of these deals must protect women and children's rights. A deal that goes against the rights of women is unacceptable.

We call upon all governments to ensure free, compulsory education all over the world for every child. We call upon all the governments to fight against terrorism and violence. To protect children from brutality and harm. We call upon the developed nations to support the expansion of education opportunities for girls in the developing world. We call upon all communities to be tolerant, to reject prejudice based on caste, creed, sect, color, religion or agenda to ensure freedom and equality for women so they can flourish. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back. We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave, to embrace the strength within themselves and realize their full potential.

Dear brothers and sisters, we want schools and education for every child's bright future. We will continue our journey to our destination of peace and education. No one can stop us. We will speak up for our rights and we will bring change to our voice. We believe in the power and the strength of our words. Our words can change the whole world because we ware all together, united for the cause of education. And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.

Dear brothers and sisters, we must not forget that millions of people are suffering from poverty and injustice and ignorance. We must not forget that millions of children are out of their schools. We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are waiting for a bright, peaceful future.

So let us wage, so let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first. Thank you.

ADL honors Pakistani teen shot for advocating education for females

The Pakistani teenage girl who was shot in the head for speaking out against the Taliban was honored at an Anti-Defamation League concert.

ADL National Director Abraham Foxman dedicated Monday night’s 18th annual Concert Against Hate at the Kennedy Center in Washington to Malala Yousafzai, who spoke out for education for females.

Foxman led an audience of 2,300 in silent prayer for the teen’s recovery. Yousafzai was flown to Birmingham, England, for more medical care.

“Malala Yousafzai was courageous in her determination to stand up to the forces of evil and extremism, and to speak clearly for her conviction that women deserve better from a society and a system that has failed them in Pakistan,” Foxman said.

The concert featured music by the National Symphony Orchestra and testimonials about extraordinary acts of courage.

Also honored were Irene Fogel Weiss, a Holocaust victim and Auschwitz survivor; Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, a Freedom Rider and civil rights icon; the late Officer Moira Ann Smith, who saved hundreds of people at the World Trade Center; and Amardeep Singh Kaleka, the son of a victim of the Wisconsin Sikh Temple shooting in August.