On her first birthday as an adult, Malala Yousafzai, the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize, opened a girls school for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The school, which was opened using funds taken from the Yousafzai's nonprofit Malala Fund, will accommodate 200 girls ages 14 to 18.
"I demand of leaders we must invest in books instead of bullets," Yousafzai said in a speech "on behalf of the world's children."
Yousafzai first came to global prominence when she was shot by members of the Pakistani Taliban for advocating for girls’ education in her native Swat Valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of northwestern Pakistan. The Taliban has previously barred women from being educated in the region.
After being shot three times from close range, Yousafzai was taken to the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham, England. She now resides in the city.
Despite continued threats on her life from the Taliban, Yousafzai has continued her work for the education of children all around the world. She was named by Time magazine as one of the most influential people in the world and was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace in 2014 at the age of 17.
She told Reuters she chose to open the school in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley "because I believe that the voices of the Syrian refugees need to be heard, and they have been ignored for so long."
Lebanon has accepted around a million Syrian refugees since the war in Syria started more than four years ago. It’s thought about 500,000 school-age children are also living in the country as refugees.
USA Today reported the children at the school celebrated Yousafzai’s birthday with cake and sang songs, bringing the Nobel laureate to tears.
Her father Ziauddin added to the occasion by underlining the enormity of his daughter’s impact on global education.
"This is the mission we have taken for the last eight to nine years," he said. "A small moment for the education of girls in Swat Valley: It is spreading now all over the world."