At 19, most of us were slowly venturing into the unknown territory of adulthood, maybe moving out on our own or attempting to make it through our first round of university exams. But at 19, Malala Yousafzai has firmly found her footing as one of the world’s leading voices for peace, education and the rights of women—a position she made clear on Wednesday when she became Canada’s youngest honorary citizen.
In case you missed Yousafzai’s incredible speech to parliament—and her numerous, well-deserved, standing ovations—here are the key *mic drop* moments that you need to know:
She took a stance for Muslims everywhere
This was not the first time Yousafzai was set to speak at Parliament and receive honorary Canadian citizenship. Originally, she was scheduled to receive this honour on October 22, 2014—the day of the Parliament Hill shooting. Yousafzai began her speech with that story to make a clear and important distinction between Muslims and terrorists. “The man who attacked Parliament Hill called himself a Muslim—but he did not share my faith,” she said. “He did not share the faith of one and a half billion Muslims, living in peace around the world… I am a Muslim and I believe that when you pick up a gun in the name of Islam and kill innocent people, you are not a Muslim anymore.”
She praised Canada’s commitment to refugees, but pushed leaders to do more
“‘Welcome to Canada’ is more than a headline or a hashtag,” she said. “It is the spirit of humanity that every single one of us would yearn for, if our family was in crisis. I pray that you continue to open your homes and your hearts to the world’s most defenseless children and families—and I hope your neighbours will follow your example.” With that said, however, she implored the gathered leaders to ensure that refugees are able to get 12 years of school so that those who come to Canada can also fulfill their dreams and potential.
She thinks age is legit just a number
“We have heard so much about Prime Minister Trudeau—but one thing has surprised me: people are always talking about how young he is,” she said, citing the fact that he does yoga, has tattoos and maintains the rep of a cool PM. She used those facts to point out that leadership, in fact, has no age requirement. “I used to think I had to wait to be an adult to lead. But I’ve learned that even a child’s voice can be heard around the world,” she said.
She had a message to men: be proud feminists
“Young women of Canada, step forward and raise your voices. The next time I visit, I hope I see more of you filling these seats in Parliament,” she said. “Men of Canada, be proud feminists. And help women get equal opportunities as men.”
She wants Canada to put more money towards education
Yousafzai proposed three steps she hopes to see Canada take, and education was at the heart of each one. In addition to providing better education opportunities for refugees, she encouraged Trudeau to make girls’ education a central theme for Canada’s G7 presidency next year. She also asked Canada’s politicians to help fill the global education gap by hosting the upcoming replenishment of the Global Partnership for Education to help support schools for girls around the world. “If Canada leads, I know the world will follow,” she said.
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