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Malala receives top UN honor

April 11, 2017

The United Nations Secretary General has named 19-year-old Malala Yousafzai as the youngest Messenger of Peace, the highest honor given to a citizen by the UN. Yousafzai received the award to promote girls' education.

Malala Yousafzai wird UN-Friedensbotschafterin
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Gombert

At a ceremony at the United Nations headquarters in New York, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday gave Malala Yousafzai the top award, saying he was inspired by her "unwavering commitment to peace" and "resolve to foster a better world."

"You are not only a hero but you are a very committed and generous person," Guterres said, highlighting Yousafzai's determination to bring equality to all.

Accepting the accolade, Nobel Laureate Yousafzai spoke on the importance of education in her home country of Pakistan and around the world, saying that "education is a right of every child and especially for girls" and that the "right should not be neglected."

"I'm hopeful and I encourage all young girls (in Pakistan) to stand up as well. You need to believe in yourselves. If you do not stand up, change will not come. If you want to see your future bright, you have to start working now," she said.

Yousafzai, who was also the youngest person to win the Nobel peace prize in 2014 when she was 17, was shot in the head on a school bus by Taliban militants in Pakistan at the age of 15. She was allegedly targeted for campaigning against efforts by the Taliban to deny women education.

Speaking of her ordeal, Yousafzai told the crowd that "the extremists tried all their best to stop me, they tried to kill me and they didn't succeed. Now this is a new life, this is a second life and it is for the purpose of education."

Yousafzai has spoken regularly on basic human rights and education for all, while also visiting refugee camps in Africa to highlight the plight of refugee girls. She has also become a regular speaker at global events, has set up the Malala Fund to support girls' education projects in developing countries and continues her studies in Britain, where she received medical treatment after she was shot.

Other current Messengers of Peace include actor Leonardo di Caprio, for climate change, actor Charlize Theron, for the prevention of HIV and elimination of violence against women, and actor Michael Douglas, for disarmament.

smm/jm (AP, Reuters)