The big day is here, Malala Day! Here we are, pictured outside the UN building in New York!
We found our space in the queue and waited in anticipation for Malala’s first speech since her barbaric attack on 9th October 2012. We passed through security and made our way to the Trusteeship Council Chamber where the event would be taking place.We took our seats with Annika Erickson Pearson a young campaigner from the Global Campaign for Education US who we had met the previous night, and has the shared goal, as with everyone in the chamber, to get universal primary education by 2015.
The room was buzzing! Then, as the room fell silent, dignitaries from the UN entered with the star of the day amongst them, Malala appeared! Everyone leapt to their feet and started cheering and applauding the ‘bravest girl in the world’.
She protested against the Taliban government by attending school and campaigning for girls’ education even though they forbid it. So they shot her! As Malala said herself, ‘They thought that they had silenced me, but they failed. Out of the silence came thousands of voices.’
It started by an opening speech by Vuk Jeremic who, to inform world leaders of the importance of education, quoted Nelson Mandela saying ‘Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world’.
Then Ban-Ki-Moon followed and reiterated the importance of education and the significance of young people taking over the UN.
Next Gordon Brown, the UN special envoy for global education, gave a powerful introduction to Malala Yousafzai on this, the occasion of her 16th birthday. ‘You can last 30 days without food, you can last 8 days without water, you can last 8 minutes without air, but you can’t last a second without hope’.
There was an explosion of sound to welcome Malala to the microphone. ‘Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every girl and every boy who have raised their voice for their rights’. Malala’s speech was truly inspirational and was one of the most moving speeches we have ever heard. She said: ‘We realised the value of books and pens when we saw guns.’
We feel it is impossible to convey the emotion that charged the room.
Here is the link to both the transcript and video footage of her speech. Let this inspire you:
This memorable speech brought all 500 young people to their feet in long and spontaneous applause. Malala has given hope to so many, we are sure that this will be a historic turning point to finally reaching the shared goal of education for ALL.
Next we had a stall in the Youth Fair so that we had our opportunity to explain the Send My Friend to School campaign to all of the other participants at Malala Day. We met some truly interesting people, including teachers from around the world who wanted an activity to do with their students. So we gave them our ‘ideal teacher’ puppet exercise along with our contact details so that they could send us their suggestions as well as pictures and make our campaign international.
Whilst at the Youth Fair many TV channels and other organisations wanted interviews with us like ‘The Voice of America’ and Gordon Brown’s office. They all wanted to hear what we thought of Malala’s speech and what it would inspire us to move forward and do. Obviously we said that her speech was one of the most moving and memorable moments in our lives and that we would continue to advocate the message of the global campaign for education through any means possible.
Then there was sudden excitement… ‘a special guest is coming, a special guest is coming’! Mr Gordon Brown MP arrived in the room and was escorted across to an awaiting TV camera for an interview about the day. Then as he was making his move away Sam ran up to him and asked him to take part in our exercise to create an ideal teacher puppet, to which he obliged. He wrote ‘My ideal teacher was the one I had when I was young’.
Later there were breakout sessions to do with skills building where they wanted one of us to speak about the advocacy that we had been doing in our campaign. Millie spoke as part of a panel, which consisted of 6 young campaigners. There was time for a Q&A at the end, an interesting one was ‘what would you suggest to engage friend and family that don’t understand the campaign?’ The ideas that came out of the break-out session we felt were really useful and gave us other ideas to campaign in our own countries.
We hope this event is the first of many, so the young generation have a chance to influence world leaders and continue to bring international media attention to this issue. The day highlighted how much young people have to offer with such energy and dynamic ideas to help get all children into education. We realised how much potential power and influence we can have if we work together.
The closing ceremony ended with sharing stories of similar events to Malala Day which were happening in a number of other countries, including London.
Angelique Kidjo perfomed and everyone danced and sang along, it was a great way to reflect and enjoy the last event of the day.
Gordon Brown then ended with a really powerful story about a boy called David.
“Written on the gravestone of a young boy in Rwanda is:
Hobby: making people smile
Favorite Sport: Football
Last Words to Mother: The UN are coming and will help us.
However the UN did not come and so had failed him. All young people must keep reminding world leaders that they cannot fail another child ever again.”
We are still on such a high from Malala Day!