Malala Yousafzai’s speech, on being awarded the Tipperary Peace Prize


This is the full transcript of Malala Yousafzai’s speech when she was awarded the Tipperary Peace Prize in Limerick Junction a couple of weeks ago. My ‘First Person’ piece on her, taken from this, is in today’s Sunday Business Post.

Khalil Gibran says: ‘Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not last, and the greatness which does not bow before children.’

People know me as the girl who was shot by the Taliban. But I don’t want to be the girl who was shot by the Taliban. I want to be the girl who fought for the right of every girl and boy, for the right of education, and the right of equality.

Malala is known now worldwide after she was shot. I don’t want other girls and other children, other children’s rights activists who are speaking for their rights, to be known after they are shot. I want them to be recognised now. And I want them to raise up their voices now. They must speak up, and we all must support them. And remember, that Malala is just one of the millions, one of the millions who are suffering and who have suffered. Malala is one of the thousands who have been shot. Malala was just an ordinary girl who wrote a BBC diary, just a small platform to speak up for her rights. She spoke to every TV channel and she spoke to every radio that she could and she always was known as the daughter of Mr Zouaidin Yousafzai, the children’s rights activist. But now my father is known as the father of Malala.

Today I’m here to speak about peace and education. The main thing is that peace is not only the absence of war, it is the absence of fear. Peace means the absence of slavery and exploitations. Peace is a situation where a girl is free to go to school, where every person has given the basic right, the equal rights, where there is justice for everyone, whether he is poor or rich, whether he is tall or short, whether he is a Muslim or Jew, whether he is a man or a woman, where there is justice. And I want to see peace all over the world. I want to see peace in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in India. I want to see peace all over the world. But to achieve a goal, we must struggle hard. The important thing is, that we must not wait for someone else. Some people think that it is the duty of the government to speak up for the rights, it is the duty of the government  to solve their problems. It is their duyty, I agree, but why should we wait for them. We must speak up now, and don’t waoit for others. And this is what we did in Swat Valley. Swat Valley is in the North of Pakistan, a beautiful valley where you can see a river, where you can see mountains, where you can see green trees, where me and my father once lived. In that area, some terrorists came in 2007 and they said that no girl is allowed to go to school. They spread terrorism  all over the valley. They killed hundreds of people. They slaughtered women. And they blasted every school, they blasted all the shops, and it felt that they took us out of our lives and sent us to a hell. At that time, we spoke. My father spoke. My friends spoke, in my school. And after struggling, and after speaking about our rights, now you can see that Swat is a peaceful place. After a military operation in 2009, the terrorists went away from Swat, and now I invite all of you to go to Swat and see that it’s a paradise on earth. And if you see the beautiful scenery of Swat you will never forget it, and I myself want to go back to Swat. I miss it.

When we talk about peace, when we talk about changes that we want to bring in our society, there are different ways. Some of us think that they can achieve anything with a gun, they can achieve anything with war. But I believe that education is the only way to peace. And education is my goal. Education is our goal. I want every girl and every boy to be educated. I want them to go to school. Some students here might think if I go to my school, sit in the classroom, the teacher teaches, and then they give me homework, then I come back, do homework, go to school tomorrow… what is this school, that I must go to school? The important thing is that I must learn about physics, biology, about cells, about atoms, about English literature, about history… that is important, but the other important thing is, when all the girls and boys sit on chairs, the chairs that are all the same… it shows true equality. That all the children sitting on the same benches are equal. There is no poor, there is no rich. And this is justice. When the teacher teaches, you must listen to them, you must learn from them, but you will never follow them. And you learn respect; how to respect each other. You also  learn patience; if a child is not good to you, he teases you… you must be patient. So this is the patience that you will learn at school. You must be tolerant. You also learn at school how to give justice. If two children fight, the teacher comes, and then there comes justice. So school is a place where we can learn the basics of our lives. That’s why I want education, not only for physics and biology. Because I want justice.

We have organised the Malala Fund and there are so many organisations other than the Malala Fund, UNESCO, UNICEF, there are so many rogasatinos. If you want them to work for education, if you want to see building schools, if you want every child to be educated, there are so many ways. The first thing is, speaking on different occasions, trying to convince people, trying to motivate the parents of the children to educate their children, to send them to school. The second thing is to motivate the children themselves to teach them how important school is. Then on the third, to ask the government, to ask the people who are responsible to do something for the education of every child. And there is also one thing; not only Malala, not only the person who is speaking, not only the speechmakers, not only the politicians. Everyone can make a change. A singer, when he sings a song of peace, when he sings a song of education, he can bring change. A painter, an artist, if he draws a picture of peace and equality, he can bring change. Everyone can bring change; everyone.

Because Malala was living in Swat, in a small house of two/three rooms, they didn’t know that they would have dinner for tonight or not. We were just a poor family. We still are poor people. And my father was running a school waiting for the fees, when would he get the fees from the students and when would he pay the teachers… we were nothing. My father was not a rich man, but he was… he was just running a school. So don’t’ think that you need something for moving forward. It’s just only your voice, it’s just only yourself. So move forward and speak, and do what you can for peace and education all oer the wolrd. Despite the fact that I said that we must not wait for the government, well we still have to ask them. So I plead all the states all over the world that they must abolish the laws that goes against the rights of children and women.

This is an appeal, to all the governments all over the world, that they must work for education and education must be their top priority. And it is an appeal, a humble request to the parents of every child that they must honour their dautheres as their sons and send them to school. And now, I would like to say it’s a long way to Tipperary, it’s a long way to peace, but one day we will achieve. Long live Pakistan, long live Ireland.

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