Malala Day: Millions Gather As Teen Highlights Education emergency

Campaigners, politicians and charities have gathered in London today to celebrate the 16th birthday of brave teenager Malala Yousafzai as she addresses an audience of millions across the globe

Leading campaigners, politicians and charities gathered with schoolchildren in London today to celebrate the 16th birthday of Malala Yousafzai as she addressed an audience of millions across the globe as part of the first-ever youth takeover of the United Nations in New York.

The event in New York was led by Malala, and included speeches by ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the UN’s special envoy for education, and Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the UN. Malala and students from more than 80 countries today debated the first-ever official UN youth “Call to Action” on their vision for education and an end to poverty.

‘This is an opportunity for every young person on the planet to get together and tell the world: we will get our education, be it at home, in school or any place,’ she said.

The young campaigner’s speech was streamed live to a 500-strong audience including Sarah Brown at Queen Elizabeth Hall, on London’s Southbank, in collaboration with charities Plan UK and A World at School.

Malala’s courage and the force of her speech moved many in the audience to tears and prompted a standing ovation, as she spoke about the plight of young girls forced to marry early and endure child labour.

‘They thought the bullet would silence me. It just took away my fear and made me stronger,’ she said.

The Pakistani schoolgirl spent her birthday leading the event dubbed “Malala Day” to highlight how children across the world are denied the right to an education. It was her first public address since The Taliban shot her in the head and neck in October 2012 when the bus she was travelling home from school on was ambushed by masked men who asked Malala to identify herself before opening fire. She had been blogging for the BBC about her life in Pakistan under the Taliban rule.

Despite the attack, Malala has since bravely vowed to carry on campaigning and has become the youngest person ever to be nominated for the Nobel Prize.

‘What is so moving about Malala’s story is that, in spite of all the odds, she has kept on fighting not just for her own education but for the education of all children in Pakistan, and beyond,’ said Sarah Brown, who founded A World At School and together with her husband, Gordon Brown, made it a leading voice in campaigning for equality for women in education around the world.

Sarah added: ‘I’m so proud that she will lead 500 of these young voices in taking her campaign to the highest level at the UN. Her speech will be an incredibly moving moment in her already inspiring story.’

The young activist’s plight has highlighted the current global education emergency not just in Pakistan but across the world. Thirty one million girls of primary school age and 34 million girls of secondary school age are getting no education worldwide. This equates to one in five adolescent girls missing out on an education because of poverty, conflict, natural disasters or discrimination.

Join the debate on Twitter using #MalalaDay.

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