Malala Yousafzai speaks at the UN (VIDEO)



Pakistanis carry candles and photographs of gunshot victim Malala Yousafzai during a protest against the assassination attempt in Islamabad on October 11, 2012.



Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was targeted by the Taliban for her girls' rights campaign, spoke to the United Nations on her 16th birthday.

Friday's speech marks the first time she has spoken publicly since being shot by a Taliban gunmen in Pakistan's Swat valley last October.

Malala, who was shot on her way home from school, told the UN General Assembly that the attack did not affect her resolve, instead "weakness, fear and hopelessness died."

She appealed to world leaders to provide compulsory free schooling for all children.

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"The extremists were, and they are, afraid of books and pens," Malala said. "Let us pick up our books and pens... They are our most powerful weapons."

"One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world," she said. "Education is the only solution."

Those gathered at the UNGA, including hundreds of UN Youth Assembly delegates, stood to sing "Happy Birthday" to her in unison.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addressed the UN session earlier, calling Malala "our hero" and "our champion."

"She is calling on us to keep our promises, invest in young people and put education first," he said.

The forum, dubbed "Malala Day," was organized by Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, currently the UN Special Envoy for Global Education.

"Getting every girl and boy into school [globally] by 2015 is achievable," Brown said.

Watch part of Malala's speech here courtesy of NBC News:

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[View the story "Happy Birthday, Malala! Yousafzai addresses the UN" on Storify]