Yesterday, famed girls rights activist Malala Yousafzai arrived in Ottawa to address Parliament, the Canadian government. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was also presented with honorary Canadian citizenship by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trudeau called her "impossibly humble" and a "model of kindness".
This Wednesday, she broke a lot of new ground. She became the youngest person (19) to ever address Parliament. And she is also now only the sixth person ever to receive honorary citizenship. (Others honorary Canadians include Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and humanitarian Aga Khan.) Malala called this an "incredible honour". But for her, the most important ground is still waiting to be broken: improving the rights of girls and child refugees around the world.
Asking Canada to lead
In her address to Parliament, she made it clear that she thinks that Canada can be—and is already—a global role model. "If Canada leads, the world will follow," she said. She called the country "a true example to the world of what it means to stand up for humanity", which is high praise coming from Malala. In her 19 years, she has seen the best and worst that humanity can offer.
As young child growing up in Pakistan, she attended school against the strong objection of the Taliban, an extremist group that had occupied her home territory. After months of threats, Malala was eventually shot in the head by a member of the Taliban. Incredibly, she survived, moving to England and continuing her education. But she did so much more.
She has used her international profile to become an inspiring spokesperson for the rights of girls around the world who are denied education. She has also spoken out in support of child refugees who left without proper homes or schools during conflicts.
It's fantastic that Malala got to speak to Canada's leaders. These are powerful people who can help make changes to the world we live in. But her message is even more powerful to other young people—the future of the planet. That's why the best part of yesterday might have been her surprise visit to Ridgemont High School in Ottawa. What a great thing to do!
You can watch highlights of her speech to the students below. We think you'll be pretty inspired. Thanks for the visit, Malala!