Last year, I wrote you a letter on International Women’s Day. This year, I write to you in hopes that the more words I give you and more examples I show you, the more you understand who you are in the reflection of a changing world.
You are strong, kind, capable, and creative. You are supported and you are loved, and together we create a web of support and love. My wish is that no matter the challenges you will face, you know this love is at the center of your being, and I will be there for you whenever possible.
It’s important to learn from your family and those near you, those that can help teach you about the world. It’s also important to have mentors. Women and men who support important causes including equality, women’s rights, and human rights.
Our world is no less harsh or violent than a year ago, and I can’t promise all of our problems will go away. Yet, we are more educated with every passing day. There is no question in my mind, that together we can make big changes that the world needs now. This past year, more light has emerged out of the shadows of oppression, and we will not go back to the way things were. Men will be held accountable for their actions toward women, and we will all continue to strive toward equality.
AS TODAY MARKS THE DAY WE RECOGNIZE THE POWER OF OUR SISTERHOOD AND OUR TOGETHERNESS, THERE IS A GIRL I WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT.
Her name is Malala Yousafzai. She is a voice for all generations of girls and women. She was born in Pakistan in 1997. An activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, she was injured on October 9, 2012 by a Taliban gunman, who attempted to take her life in retaliation for her activism.
She stands in peace, with a mission to educate humanity on the power of education. She is an important model of strength for women and girls everywhere to embody peace and love despite fear.
In 2013, she addressed the United Nations Youth Assembly.
Here are excerpts of her powerful address:
“So here I stand… one girl among many.
I speak – not for myself, but for all girls and boys.
I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that 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 the 9th of 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 then, out of that silence came, thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our 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. 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 terrorists group. I am here to speak up for the right of education of every child. I want education for the sons and the daughters of all the extremists especially the Taliban.
This is the philosophy of nonviolence that I have learnt from Gandhi Jee, Bacha Khan, and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learnt from my mother and father. 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 sword” was 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. And that is why they killed 14 innocent medical students in the recent attack in Quetta. And that is why they killed many female teachers and polio workers in Khyber Pukhtoon Khwa and FATA. That is why they are blasting schools every day. Because they were and they are afraid of change, afraid of the equality that we will bring into our society.
…Peace is necessary for education. In many parts of the world especially Pakistan and Afghanistan; terrorism, wars and conflicts stop children to go to their schools. We are really tired of these wars. Women and children are suffering in many parts of the world in many ways. 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 the hurdles of extremism for decades. 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.
Dear fellows, today I am focusing on women’s rights and girls’ education because they are suffering the most. There was a time when women social 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 rather I am focusing on women to be independent to fight for themselves.
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 the peace deals must protect women and children’s rights. A deal that goes against the dignity of women and their rights is unacceptable.
We call upon all governments to ensure free compulsory education for every child all over the world.
We call upon all 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 educational opportunities for girls in the developing world.
We call upon all communities to be tolerant – to reject prejudice based on cast, creed, sect, religion or gender. To ensure freedom and equality for women so that 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 for everyone. No one can stop us. We will speak for our rights and we will bring change through our voice. We must believe in the power and the strength of our words. Our words can change the world.
Because we are 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, injustice and ignorance. We must not forget that millions of children are out of schools. We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are waiting for a bright peaceful future.
So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism and 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. Education First.”
My daughter, know that in Malala’s words truth is spoken. Know that you too can change the world by standing up for standing up for your beliefs and showing kindness. Learn to speak from your soul’s voice.
Change does not rest purely on your shoulders. Keep going when times are tough. When the world seems bigger than you can handle, take comfort knowing that there are millions of women with you.
Know that a better future begins with how you view the world, how you choose to think and your willingness help others. Always try for better. Know that together we are one.
You are a light.