Speech Analysis: UN Speech on Youth Education

Malala Yousafzai
UN Speech on Youth Education
Rhetorical Analysis presented by E. Ryan


Malala Yousafzai has become an internationally-recognized symbol of courage, resilience, and the power of education. In her speech to the United Nations on July 12, 2013, Yousafzai passionately champions universal access to education for children everywhere. In this persuasive address, Yousafzai uses a variety of rhetorical strategies to effectively argue her call for understanding and investment in youth development. A critical analysis of this speech reveals Malala’s unique ability to use language in order to drive her message home.

Malala delivered this speech to the United Nations on July 12, 2013, her 16th birthday and "Malala Day" at the United Nations.

Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai 内閣官房内閣広報室,
via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 4.0

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  • Read the annotated transcript below
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Annotated transcript

In the name of God, the most beneficent, the most merciful.

Honorable UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon, respected president of the General Assembly Vuk Jeremic, honorable UN envoy for global education Mr Gordon Brown, respected elders and my dear brothers and sisters: Assalamu alaikum.

Today is it an honor for me to be speaking again after a long time. Being here with such honorable people is a great moment in my life and it is an honor for me that today I am wearing a shawl of the late Benazir Bhutto. I don't know Learn more. where to begin my speech. I don't know Learn more. what people would be expecting me to say, but first of all thank you to God for whom we all are equal and thank you to every person who has prayed for my fast recovery and new life. I cannot believe how much love people have shown me. I have received thousands of good wish cards and gifts from all over the world. Thank you to Learn more. all of them. Thank you to Learn more. the children whose innocent words encouraged me Learn more. The use of Anaphora AND Epistrophe in this phrase and the following one makes it an example of 'Symploce'.. Thank you to Learn more. my elders whose prayers strengthened me Learn more. The use of Anaphora AND Epistrophe in this phrase and the previous one makes it an example of 'Symploce'.. I would like to thank my nurses, doctors and the staff of the hospitals in Pakistan and the UK and the UAE government who have helped me to get better and recover my strength.

I fully support UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his Global Education First Initiative and the work of UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown and the respectful president of the UN General Assembly Vuk Jeremic. I thank them for the leadership they continue to give. They continue to inspire all of us to action. Dear brothers and sisters, do remember one thing: Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl Learn more. who have raised their voice for their rights.

There are hundreds of human rights activists and social workers who are not only speaking for their rights, but who are struggling to achieve their goal of peace, education and equality Learn more.. Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them. So here I stand. So here I stand Learn more., one girl, among many. I speak not for myself, but so those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights. Their right Learn more. to live in peace. Their right to Learn more. be treated with dignity. Their right to Learn more. equality of opportunity. Their right to Learn more. be educated.

Dear friends, on 9 October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends, too. They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed Learn more.. And out of that silence came thousands of voices Learn more.. The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except thisThe remainder of this sentence is an example of parallelism. Learn more.: weakness, fear and hopelessnessLearn more. died Learn more.. Strength, power and courageLearn more. was born Learn more..

I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. And my dreams are the sameEach of these three phrases begin (or almost begin) with an anaphora on 'my' and end with an epistrophe on 'are the same'. Learn more. These three phrases are also an example of Tricolon and Parallelism.. Dear sisters and brothers, 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 am here to speak for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists. I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there was a gun in my hand and he was standing in front of me, I would not shoot him. This is the compassion I have learned from Mohammed, the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. This the legacy of change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. This is the philosophy of nonviolence that I have learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learned from my father and from my mother Learn more.. This is what my soul is telling me: be peaceful and love everyone.

Dear sisters and brothers, we realize the importance of Learn more. light when we see darkness Learn more.. We realize the importance of Learn more. our voice when we are silenced Learn more.. In the same way, when we were in Swat, the north of Pakistan, we realized the importance of Learn more. pens and books when we saw the guns Learn more.. The wise saying, "The pen is mightier than the sword Learn more. The imagery of the pen and the sword (weapons) occurs several more times throughout the speech.". It is true. The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them. Learn more. In this section she uses a parallel construction using alternating 'afraid/frightens' sentences to hammer home the point. This is why Learn more. they killed 14 innocent students in the recent attack in Quetta. And that is why Learn more. they kill female teachers. That is why Learn more. they are blasting schools every day because they were and they are afraid of change and equality that we will bring to our society. And I remember that there was a boy in our school who was asked by a journalist why are the Taliban against education? He answered very simply by pointing to his book, he said, "a Talib doesn't know what is written inside this book".

They think that God is a tiny, little conservative being who would point guns at people's heads just for going to school. These terrorists are misusing the name of Islam for their own personal benefit. Pakistan is a peace loving, democratic country. Pashtuns want education for their daughters and sons. Islam is a religion of peace, humanity and brotherhood Learn more.. It is the duty and responsibility to get education for each child, that is what it says. Peace is a necessity for education. In many parts of the world, especially Pakistan and Afghanistan, terrorism, war and conflicts Learn more. stop children from going to schools. We are really tired of these wars. Women and children are suffering in many ways in many parts of the world.

In India, innocent and poor children are victims of child labor. Many schools have been destroyed in Nigeria. People in Afghanistan have been affected by extremism. Young girls have to do domestic child labor and are forced to get married at an early age. Poverty, ignorance, injustice, racism and the deprivation of basic rights are the main problems, faced by both men and women.

Today I am focusing on women's rights and girls' education because they are suffering the most. There was a time Learn more. when women activists asked men to stand up for their rights. But this time Learn more. we will do it by ourselves. I am not Learn more. First part of 'I am not | I am' pairing telling men to step away from speaking for women's rights, but I am Learn more. Second part of 'I am not | I am' pairing focusing on women to be independent and fight for themselves. So dear sisters and brothers, now it's time to speak up. So today, we call upon Learn more. the world leaders to change their strategic policies in favor of peace and prosperity. We call upon Learn more. the world leaders that all of these deals must protect women and children's rights. A deal that goes against the rights of women is unacceptable.

We call upon Learn more. all governments to ensure free, compulsory education all over the world for every child. We call upon Learn more. all the governments to fight against terrorism and violence. To protect children from brutality and harm. We call upon Learn more. the developed nations to support the expansion of education opportunities for girls in the developing world. We call upon Learn more. all communities to be tolerant, to reject prejudice based on caste, creed, sect, color, religion or agenda to ensure freedom and equality for women so they can flourish. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back Learn more.. We call upon Learn more. our sisters around the world to be brave, to embrace the strength within themselves and realize their full potential.

Dear brothers and sisters Learn more., we want schools and education for every child's bright future. We will continue our journey to our destination of peace and education. No one can stop us. We will speak up for our rights and we will bring change to our voice. We believe in the power and the strength of our words. Our words Learn more. can change the whole world because we ware all together, united for the cause of education. And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves Learn more. This begins the first part of a bicolon. with the weapon Learn more. Part of the same imagery as 'shield' in the following phrase. of knowledge and let us shield Learn more. Part of the same imagery as 'weapon' in the previous phrase. ourselves Learn more. 'shield ourselves' begins the second part of a bicolon. with unity and togetherness.

Dear brothers and sisters Learn more., we must not forget that Learn more. millions of people are suffering from poverty and Learn more. injustice and ignorance. We must not forget that Learn more. millions of children are out of their schools. We must not forget that Learn more. that our sisters and brothers are waiting for a bright, peaceful future.

So let us Learn more. wage, so let us wage a glorious struggle Learn more. against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism Learn more., let us Learn more. pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons Learn more. . One child, one teacher, one book and one pen Learn more. A 4 part isocolon like this one is called a tetracolon. can change the world. Education Learn more. is the only solution. Education Learn more. first. Thank you.