Here is young Malala Yousafzai, checking in for a flight to New York at London’s Heathrow airport. The Pakistani teenager is giving a much anticipated speech at the UN General Assembly on Friday morning, urging global leaders to do more to get every child in the world access to education.
It will be the first time she has spoken in public since the Taliban shot her in the head on a school bus last October in her hometown of Mingora, in Pakistan’s restive Swat Valley.
Malala spent months recovering at a hospital in Birmingham, England and earlier this year she returned to school – but in England. It is too dangerous for her to return to Pakistan because the religious militants have vowed to kill her for defending girls’ rights to go to school.
And her fight crosses national boundaries. Last Saturday, Nigerian extremists set fire to a boarding school in Yobe province, killing 22 students. Nigeria blamed the group Boko Haram which means ‘western education is forbidden’ for the atrocity in the north-east. Secondary schools have been closed.
“Obtaining education is every man and woman's birth right and no one is allowed to take this right away from them,” Malala said in a statement. “If we want change, if we want progress, if we want development, if we want the education of girls, we should be united. We should not wait. We should do it now.”
Hamida Ghafour is a foreign affairs reporter at The Star. She has lived and worked in the Middle East and Asia for more than 10 years and is the author of a book on Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter @HamidaGhafour