Malala Yousafzai defies Taleban to take world stage

Pakistani girls attending class at a school in Mingora, the main town of Swat valley on June 21, 2013. Malala Yousafzai (not pictured) took over the United Nations on Friday, July 12, 2013, nine months after a Taleban gunman put a bullet in her
Pakistani girls attending class at a school in Mingora, the main town of Swat valley on June 21, 2013. Malala Yousafzai (not pictured) took over the United Nations on Friday, July 12, 2013, nine months after a Taleban gunman put a bullet in her head believing he was ending the Pakistani teenager's campaign for girls' education. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

UNITED NATIONS, (AFP) - Malala Yousafzai took over the United Nations on Friday, nine months after a Taleban gunman put a bullet in her head believing he was ending the Pakistani teenager's campaign for girls' education.

The girl will mark her 16th birthday with her first public speech since making a near miraculous recovery from the attack on a school bus near her home in Pakistan's Swat Valley.

Doctors had to place a titanium plate over the hole in her skull and her hearing has been badly affected. But Malala has become a global superstar and a favourite to become the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner.

She has already been named as one of Time magazine's most influential people in 2013 and has reportedly secured a US$3 million (S$) contract for a book on her life story.

"This frail young girl who was seriously injured has become such a powerful symbol not just for the girls' right to education, but for the demand that we do something about it immediately," said former British prime minister Gordon Brown, UN envoy on education who organised World Malala Day.

"There will be no compromise with any religious extremist who says girls should not go to school or stop going to school at 10," Brown told CBS News.

Malala is expected to use her speech at a UN youth assembly to lecture UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and any listening world leaders on the need to keep a promise to provide universal primary education by the end of 2015.

She will also hand over a petition to Ban signed by more than 330,000 people calling on the 193 UN member states to finance teachers, schools and books to meet the education goal.

"From the day that terrible shooting - assassination attempt - took place, Malala Yousafzai is a symbol for the rights of girls, and indeed the rights of all young people, to an education," said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.

"And she has further underscored that symbolism through her remarkable recovery and her eloquence in explaining her case and her position," Ban's spokesman added.