Tuesday 27 September 2016

Birthday girl Malala asks for 'books, not bullets'

Matthew Cooper

Published 13/07/2015 | 02:30

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai at a school for Syrian refugee girls, built by the NGO Kayany Foundation, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley (REUTERS/Jamal Saidi)
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai at a school for Syrian refugee girls, built by the NGO Kayany Foundation, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley (REUTERS/Jamal Saidi)

Girls' rights campaigner Malala Yousafzai has marked her 18th birthday by calling on world leaders to stop "failing" the people of Syria.

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Speaking at the opening of a Malala Fund girls' school in Lebanon, the education activist described the situation in neighbouring Syria as a "heartbreaking tragedy".

The Pakistani teenager, who settled in Birmingham after being flown to Britain for treatment for gunshot wounds in 2012, also announced a new grant of $250,000 (€225,000) to support Unicef and UNHCR refugee programmes in Jordan.

The co-winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize said she felt honoured to spend her birthday with "brave and inspiring" girls from Syria.

Opening the girls' school in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, near the Syrian border, Malala said: "I am here on behalf of the 28 million children who are kept from the classroom because of armed conflict.

"Their courage and dedication to continue their schooling in difficult conditions inspires people around the world and it is our duty to stand by them.

"On this day, I have a message for the leaders of this country, this region and the world - you are failing the Syrian people, especially Syria's children.

"This is a heartbreaking tragedy - the world's worst refugee crisis in decades."

In the run-up to Malala Day, people globally have taken action in support of her fund's #BooksNotBullets campaign to highlight the importance of quality education for girls.

Malala, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in October 2012 after campaigning for girls' rights to education, added: "On behalf of the world's children, I demand of our leaders to invest in books instead of bullets.

"Books, not bullets, will pave the path toward peace and prosperity. Our voices will continue to get louder and louder until we see politicians and our governments invest in the education of their youth rather than military."

Irish Independent

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