Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel laureate, has broken another age barrier and become the youngest UN Messenger of Peace, an honour she shares with Hollywood actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Charlize Theron.
Hailing the Pakistani teenager as “the most famous student in the world” and the symbol of the cause of education for all, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appointed her on Monday as the Messenger of Peace for girls’ education.
After receiving her appointment, Yousafzai, who survived a terrorist attack for campaigning for girls’ education, said: “I have a second life for the purpose of education and I’ll continue working.”
People drawn from the arts, entertainment, sports, science and public service are appointed Messengers of Peace, each with special missions.
Nineteen-year-old Yousafzai became the 13th Messenger of Peace, joining, among others, actor Michael Douglas, naturalist Jane Goodall, and Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan.
The Taliban attacked her in 2012 in Pakistan’s Swat valley for defying their edict banning girls’ education and campaigning for the right to schooling.
She was critically injured and was treated in Birmingham, where she now lives.
In 2014, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Kailash Satyarti, the Indian children’s rights activist.
“You have been going to the most difficult places, where education has more problems in becoming a reality,” said Guterres, who was the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as he recalled her work in refugee camps and the two schools her foundation has set up in Lebanon’s Beka’a Valley.
“If we want to go forward, we have to give education to girls. And, once you educate girls, you change the whole community, the whole society,” Yousafzai said.
She said fathers and brothers equally have a role in promoting girls’ education.
Of her emergence as the leading campaigner for girls’ education, she said: “It wasn’t that I was very intelligent or very clever or I had some special kind of training or something. All I had was a father and a family who said, ‘Yes, you can speak out, it’s your choice’.”