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Malala receives standing ovations in D.C. | News

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Malala receives standing ovations in D.C.

(USA TODAY) -- Washington welcomed Malala Yousafzai, 16, with a standing ovation at two events Friday.

Malala waved to the excited audience as she confidently walked down the steps of the World Bank Atrium for her public conversation with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.

Dressed in a traditional shalwar kameez, she spoke proudly of her campaign for education for all girls and boys, at times joking about how she and her brothers argue at home.

One year ago, Malala was shot at point-blank range in the head by the Taliban while on her way home from school. Two other girls were also injured in the incident.

President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and their 15-year-old daughter, Malia, also met with Malala in the Oval Office on Friday. In a statement, the first lady said, "Investing in girls' education is the very best thing we can do, not just for our daughters and granddaughters, but for their families, their communities and their countries."

Malala along with her father, Zaiuddin Yousafzai, spoke at Sidwell Friends School, where Obama's daughters attend. Although she did not win the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala said she was determined to keep campaigning for global education, adding that even the Taliban cannot stop her.

"They cannot stop me from continuing my campaign," she said firmly. In fact, Malala said, it only encourages her. "I have already seen death and I know death is supporting me in my cause for education."

Seven thousand miles away, Samia Raheel Qazi, one of the leading members of Jamaat-e-Islami, the women's wing of the Islamist political party, questioned why more action wasn't taken after the Taliban issued a death threat against Malala for her activism. "Why was her security not tightened?" Qazi said.

"I am just a bit concerned about this making her a bigger target for extremists," said Shaukat Hamdani, a Lahori native who now lives in New York. "In the end, we have to realize that she is still just a kid."

Todd Shea, an American who has been living and working in Pakistan for the past eight years, says it's possible others are using Malala for their own agenda.

"I think she is a strong enough girl (and) as she matures and grows that it will be basically impossible for anyone to do that and get away with (it)," he said. "I think she is smart enough to understand her place and position."

Shea runs the non-profit Comprehensive Disaster Response Services and has worked in many dangerous areas in Pakistan. He remembers Malala as a "lady-like, cultured and intelligent" girl. He had dinner with her and her family when they were both nominated for an award in Pakistan in March 2012, six months before she was shot.

Today, Malala said she hopes she can return to Pakistan. "I am hopeful that a day will come when I can go back to my homeland," she said.

In the meantime, Zaiuddin Yousafzai stood strongly by his daughter, and in a Washington school room packed with people of all ages, he quoted his daughter in response to a question about political culture, saying, "Send pens not guns, books not tanks, send teachers not soldiers."

Written by: Aisha Chowdhry


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