“My parents worry a lot about my education, so I want to help other girls who aren’t as lucky as me.” That was the view of 10-year-old Lulia Teama, one of the audience of 12,000 children and teachers who gathered in London today to hear the words of Malala Yousafzai.
The Nobel Peace Prize nominee was one of the star speakers at the first “We Day” youth empowerment event to take place outside North America, at Wembley Arena in London. Tickets to the show, which included performances from Ellie Goulding and Dizzee Rascal and was attended by more than 380 schools across the UK, could not be bought. Instead they were awarded to children who had done one local and one global charitable action.
Affan Ahmad, 17, from Southfields Academy in south London, said: “We saved one snow leopard and we’re going to save a wolf as well.”
Banners with the words “I am Malala” were held aloft as she spoke to the young crowd, encouraging them to help bring education to children in the most deprived parts of the world, and asking them to join her in a 24-hour silence on 17 April to show solidarity to those without a voice.
“It’s our turn to affect a positive change, to stand up for equality and to empower others to join us,” she said. “On 17 April I will go silent to stand in solidarity with my peers who remain voiceless.”
Malala, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in October 2012 after speaking out about girls’ right to an education, also described growing up in the shadow of terrorism. “I had two options,” she said. “Not to speak and die, or to speak and then die. I chose the second one.”
Maddie Briggs, 13, from Brentside High in London, said: “I think events like these are really good because I’ve become aware of how many people are really affected across the world.”
Farida Chowdbury, 17, from Cadbury College in Kings Norton, Birmingham, added: “I will definitely be joining in with the 24-hour silence, but it will be really difficult – I talk all the time.”
Alongside the musical performances were motivational speeches from Prince Harry, Sir Richard Branson, and Al Gore.
The Prince proved popular with the youthful audience and at one point screams of “we love you Harry” stopped him in the middle of his talk. “Some people don’t think it’s cool to help others,” he said. “Personally, I think it’s the coolest thing in the world.”
Sir Richard told the crowd to learn from his hero, the late Nelson Mandela, saying :“Go and hug an enemy and make them a friend.”
But, of course, the biggest cheer of the day went to Malala. “Malala was my favourite,” said Lulia, from St Matthew’s Primary School in West Drayton. “I like how she stands up for education and for girls.”