Pakistani teen activist Malala Yousafzai on Friday told the United Nations that she would not be silenced by terrorist threats, as she gave her first public speech since being shot in the head by the Taliban.
"They thought that the bullet would silence us, but they failed," Malala who turned 16 today, said at the UN General Assembly as she appealed to the international community to put in greater efforts to get children into schools.
"Lets pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in life, except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, courage and fervour was born," she said in her speech that saw many standing ovations.
To mark her birthday, the UN has declared July 12 as 'Malala Day'. At the heart of 'Malala Day' is a call to improve the lives of some 57 million unschooled children by improving education access by 2015.
Malala became a global icon for girls' education after being brutally attacked by Taliban militants while on her way to school on October 9, 2012.
The Taliban said they shot her because they opposed her efforts to promote girls' education.
They have made it clear she remains a potential target. She was flown to the UK for life-saving treatment and still lives there, but the attack has greatly boosted her campaign for greater educational opportunities for girls.
Malala has been named by Time magazine as one of the most influential people in 2013 and has reportedly secured a USD 3 million contract for a book on her life story.
"This frail young girl who was seriously injured has become such a powerful symbol not just for girls' right to education, but for the demand that we do something about it immediately," former British prime minister Gordon Brown, UN envoy on education who organised World Malala Day, said.
"There will be no compromise with any religious extremist who says girls should not go to school or stop going to school at 10," he told CBS News.
Malala will also hand over a petition to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon signed by more than 330,000 people calling on the 193 UN member states to finance teachers, schools and books to meet the educational goal.