Malala Yousafzai: Speech at the United Nations General Assembly

"If you are serious about creating a safe, sustainable future for all children, then be serious about education."

New York, New York

Seven years ago I stood on this platform hoping that the voice of a teenage girl who took a bullet for standing up for her education would be heard.

On that day, leaders, corporations, civil society — all of us — committed to work together to see every child in school by 2030.

Yet halfway to that target date, we are facing an education emergency.

Let’s remind you once again what’s happening.

In Afghanistan, Taliban have banned girls like Somaya from learning. In Uganda and Pakistan, droughts and floods are ravaging homes like the ones where Vanessa and I grew up. And conflict and violence in Ethiopia, Ukraine and other countries are keeping girls like Yelizaveta out of the classroom.

If you are serious about creating a safe and sustainable world for children, then be serious about education. You’ve heard enough about how education transforms lives, strengthens economies and contributes to a more peaceful world.

You know every country, community and corporation would benefit from every girl having access to free, safe, quality education.

And if you’re still in doubt about the impact of education, go ask a girl. She will tell you what education means to her.

Most of you know what exactly needs to be done. You must not make small, stingy and short-term pledges – but commit to uphold the right to complete education and close the funding gap once and for all.

You must use the power you have to take action. Allocate 20% of your budgets to education. High-income countries: increase aid, cancel debts and set fair global tax rules so that low-income countries can spend more on girls.

Remove gender bias from curricula. Improve content. Make schools safe for girls.

And work together with those who are closest to the challenges to transform education.

Today, you heard from Somaya, Vanessa and Yelizaveta — they join millions of young people around the world who have written demands in the youth declaration and they stand ready to lead the way.

Soon you will hear from young leaders Ulises and Karimot on behalf of youth around the world.

I hope, in another seven years, we will speak to you again. But instead of urging you to help us, we’ll be cheering and celebrating the progress you’ve made for girls.

When you leave the room today, please ask yourselves:

How many more generations are you willing to sacrifice?

How long will you make girls wait for what you promised?

How many more times do we have to stand on this stage in order to be heard?


Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist, student, UN messenger of peace and the youngest Nobel Laureate. As co-founder of Malala Fund, she is building a world where every girl can learn and lead without fear.

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