UNITED NATIONS - In her first speech since the Taliban in Pakistan tried to kill her for advocating education for girls, Malala Yousafzai celebrated her 16th birthday on Friday at the United Nations, appealing for compulsory free schooling for all children.
Wearing a pink head scarf, Yousafzai told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and nearly 1,000 students from around the world attending a Youth Assembly at UN headquarters in New York that education was the only way to improve lives.
"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," she said.
Yousafzai was shot in the head at close range by gunmen in October as she left school in Pakistan's Swat Valley, northwest of the country's capital Islamabad, after campaigning against the Islamist Taliban efforts to deny women education.
She presented Ban with a petition signed by nearly 4 million people in support of 57 million children who are not able to go to school and demanding that world leaders fund new teachers, schools and books and end child labor, marriage and trafficking.