Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakistani activist who has risked her life campaigning for girls’ right to education, took a rare holiday from school on Friday when she met with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
“I had to miss school because I was meeting the queen,” she told reporters at the event. “It's such an honor for me to be here at Buckingham Palace. It's really an honor to meet the queen. I also wanted to raise the issue of girls not being educated on a higher platform so that the government in each country takes action on it.We need to fight for education in the suffering countries and developing countries, but also here.”
Malala, 16, and her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, chatted with the queen and Prince Philip as they joined hundreds of other guests from around the world at a royal reception. The young activist presented the queen with a copy of her new memoir, “I Am Malala.” She giggled as Prince Philip joked that in England, parents want their children to go to school so they can get them out of the house.
Malala became a symbol of resistance against the Taliban last year when she was shot in the head by militants in Pakistan in retaliation for her activism. Her work in advocating for girls’ education after the Taliban banned girls from schools in the Swat Valley in Pakistan in 2009 made her a target, but she continues to promote her cause.
She was nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, which ultimately was awarded to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Malala has been living in Great Britain since undergoing major surgery there following the shooting. A week before greeting the queen, she met with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at the White House. She released a statement challenging the U.S. on drone strikes in Pakistan and saying more effort should be put into promoting education in her home nation. On Oct. 8, she released her memoir, in which she writes about the shooting and her determination to keep advocating for education for young girls in Pakistan.
“The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died,’’ she told the United Nations in July. “Strength, power and courage was born. I am not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I’m here to speak up for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists.”
She was shot by a Taliban gunman last year at 15 years old when he boarded a school bus she was riding home. She has received continuous death threats from the Taliban, but it has not stopped her work as an activist.