LAST NIGHT, 16-YEAR-OLD Malala Yousafzai accepted the Tipperary International Peace Award, a recognition of her work in campaigning for equality and education for all children.
The Pakistani schoolgirl and activist is known across the world since she was survived being shot at point blank range be a Taliban gunman in October 2012.
She used the ceremony in Ballykisteen yesterday as an opportunity to get her message across about the value of education. Here is her speech, in full:
“I would like to begin my speech with a quote of Khalil Gibran. He says, “Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy that does not last and the greatness which does not bow before children.”
Once again, thank you to the jury of Tipperary award for giving me such an honour. Such a prestigious award that I received here today. And as the Honorary Secretary said – and I agree with him – people know me as the girl who was shot by the Taliban. But I don’t want to be the girl who was shot by the Taliban – I want to be the girl who fought for the rights of every child, whether girl or boy, the right of education and the right of equality.
Malala is known, now worldwide, after she was shot. I don’t want other girls and other children, other children’s rights activists to be known after they are shot. I want them to be recognised now. And I want them to raise up their voice now. They must speak up. And we all must support them.
And, remember, that Malala is just one of the millions that are suffering and have suffered. Malala is one of the thousands that have been shot. Malala is just an ordinary girl who wrote a BBC diary – just a small platform to speak for her rights. She spoke to every TV channel and every radio that she could. And she always was known as the daughter of Ziauddin Yousafzai, the children’s rights activist. But now my father is known as the father of Malala. [laughs]
Today, I am here to speak about peace and education. The main thing is that peace is not only the absence of war, it is the absence of fear. This means the absence of slavery and exploitations. This is a situation where a girl is free to go to school, where every person is given the basic right, the equal right, where there is justice for everyone. Whether he is poor or rich, whether he is tall or short, whether he is a Muslim or a Jew, whether he is a man or woman.
I want to see peace all around the world. I want to see peace in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. I want to see peace all around the world. But to achieve a goal, we must struggle hard. The important thing is we must not wait for someone else. Some people think that it is the duty of the government to speak up for their rights, it is their duty to solve the problems. It is their duty, I agree, but why should we wait for them? We must speak up now. And don’t wait for others. And this is what we did in Swat Valley.
Swat Valley is in the north of Pakistan, a beautiful valley where you can see a river, where you can see mountains, where you can see green trees, where me and my father once lived. In that area, some terrorists came in 2007 and they said that no girl is allowed to go to school. They spread terrorism all over the valley, they killed hundreds of people, they slaughtered women and they blasted every school, they blasted all the shops.
They took us out of our paradise and sent us to hell.
At that time, we spoke. My father spoke. My friends spoke in my school. After struggling and speaking for our rights, now you can see that Swat is a peaceful place. After the military operation in 2009, the terrorists went away from Swat. And now I want all of you to go to Swat that it is a paradise on earth. If you see the beautiful scenery on Swat, you will never forget it. I, myself, want to go back to Swat. I miss it.
When we talk about peace, when we talk about changes we want to bring in society, there are different ways. Some people think they can achieve anything with a gun, that they can achieve anything with war. But I believe that education is the only way to peace. And education is my goal. Education is our goal. I want every girl and every boy to be educated. I want them to go to school. Some students here might think, ‘If I go to my school, sit in the classroom, the teacher teaches and then they gave me homework and then I come back do homework and go to school tomorrow’. The important thing is that you will learn about physics, biology, cells, atoms, about the English literature, about the history. That is important but the other important thing is, when all the girls and boys sit on chairs, the chairs are all the same. It shows equality. All the children sitting on the same benches are equal. There are no poor and no rich. This is justice. When the teacher teaches you, you must listen to them, you must learn from them but you will never follow them. And you learn respect, how to respect each other. You will also learn patience. If a child is not good to you, he teases you. You must be patient and this is the patience you will learn in school. You must be tolerant. You also learn at school how to give justice – if two children fight, the teacher comes and there comes justice. School is a place where we can learn the basics of our life. That is why I want education – not only for physics and biology. I want to see peace.
We have organised a Malala Fund. There are others – UNESCO, UNICEF – so many organisations. I think if you want them to work for the education. If you want to see building schools, if you want every child educated. There are so many ways. The first thing is speaking on different occasions, trying to convince people, trying to motivate the parents of the children to educate their children to send them to school. Then the second thing is to motivate the children as well, to teach them how important school is. Then the third step is to ask the government, to ask the people responsible to do something to educate every child.
There is also one thing. Not only Malala. Not only the person speaking. Not only the speechmakers. Not only the politicians. Everyone can bring the change. A singer when he sings a song of peace. When he sings the song of education, he can bring change. A painter, an artist, when you draw a picture, a picture of peace and equality, he can bring change. Everyone can bring change. Everyone. Because Malala was living in Swat, in a small house of two, three rooms. They didn’t know if they would have dinner for tonight or not. We were just a poor family – and we still are poor people. My father was running the school waiting for the fees, when would he get the fees from the students and when would he pay for the teachers. We were nothing. My father was not a hun, not a rich man. He was just running the school. So don’t think you need something for moving forward. Just only your voice and yourself. So move forward and speak and do what you can for peace and education all over the world. Despite the fact that I said we must not wait for the government, we still have to ask them. So I appeal to all the States all over the world that they must abolish the laws that go against the rights of children and women.
This is an appeal to all the governments all over the world that they must work for education and education must be their top priority. It is an appeal – a humble appeal – to the parents of every child that they must honour their daughters and their sons and send them to schools. And now, I would like to say it is a long way to Tipperary, it is a long way to peace, but one day we will achieve. Long live Pakistan. Long live Ireland.”