When Malala Yousafzai became an honorary Canadian citizen this week, she wasted no time in making sure her most important message got through to people across the country.
"I want to tell the children of Canada that when I was little, I used to wait to be an adult to lead," she said in an address to the Canadian Parliament. "But I have learned that even a child's voice can be heard across the world."
Yousafzai, who was born in Pakistan, has become one of the most well-recognized activists in the world following an assassination attempt by the Taliban in 2012. The group was trying to silence her outspoken support of girls' education, a theme she has continued to speak out on with every opportunity that arises, including after Wednesday's honorary citizenship ceremony in Ottawa.
"If all girls went to school for 12 years, low- and middle-income countries would add $92 billion per year to their economies," she stated. "When women are educated, there are more jobs for everyone. When mothers can keep their children alive and send them to school, there is hope.
"But around the world, 130 million girls are out of school today. They may not have read the studies and they may not know the statistics, but they understand that education is the only path to a brighter future and they are fighting to go to school."
"I have learned that even a child's voice can be heard across the world."
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, who was recently named to Women Deliver, Deliver for Good, a global initiative that invests in women and girls' education and human rights, among other topics, accompanied Yousafzai to Ridgemont High School in Ottawa earlier Wednesday to bring that same message directly to students.
But Yousafzai wasn't about to leave the centre of politics in Canada without setting some clear expectations for what has to be done moving forward.
"Dear Canada, I am asking you to lead once again," she told the audience in Parliament, which included Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "First, make girls' education a central theme of your G7 presidency next year. Second, use your influence to fill the global education funding gap to raise billions of dollars and save lives ... If Canada leads, I know the world will follow.
"Finally, prioritize 12 years of education and schooling for refugees. Today, only a quarter of refugee children can get secondary education. We should not ask children who flee their homes to also give up their dreams.
"We must recognize that young refugees are future leaders on whom we all depend for peace. The world needs leadership. The world needs leadership based on serving humanity, not based on how many weapons you have. Canada can take that lead."
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