This speech was originally delivered at the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award ceremony in Dublin, Ireland on 17 September 2013.
Dear respected brothers and sisters, Secretary General Salil Shetty, Lord Mayor, Minister for Education, Bono, Roger Waters and Harry Belafonte: It is a great honour for me to be here in Ireland again, where Irish eyes are always smiling and, you can hear the angels sing.
Last time I was invited to Tipperary, I saw natural beauty and that reminded me of my hometown Swat where you can find lush green hills, mountains with tall trees and crystal clear rivers. And we call Swat a paradise on earth. Ireland shares this beauty of Swat.
Apart from the fact of natural beauty, the most important thing for me is the love and kindness that the people of Ireland have shown me.
I would like to thank Amnesty International for their continued campaigning to protect human rights and for giving me this award for our global campaign for girls’ education. I am truly humbled to share this award today with not only the king of Calypso, but the king of campaigning for the rights of humans across the globe. I am truly in awe of you, Mr Harry Belafonte.
Dear sisters and brothers, as many of you may know, my beloved home country of Pakistan and its people are suffering at the hands of violent terrorists. War continues to be waged against the innocent civilians of Afghanistan, whilst girls around the world are deprived of their basic right to an education. Girls like 5 year old Sambul are a target of sexual violence. Human rights defenders are killed; like Sushmita Banerjee, a health worker and author who was shot dead in Afghanistan. We can see that the people of Syria are homeless and children are out of school. In India children are suffering from child labour and child trafficking.
In many countries, women have been victims of sexual abuse, early forced marriages and domestic labour. They are not accepted as human beings but inferior, neglected, and marginalized. Women are deprived of their basic right of equality and justice. I could go on and talk at length of the atrocities and human rights violations that are occurring every hour, every minute, and every second, of each passing day.
I know that every time a person comes, delivers a speech, the audience claps and that is the end. Dear brothers and sisters, I am not here to explain the issues that we are faced with in detail, rather we are here to find a solution to these problems. You may be asking yourselves, what is the solution? I believe the only solution is education….education….education!
With this powerful weapon we can fight against violence, terrorism, child labour, and inequality. The only tools that are needed are a pen and a book to guide us on our way to an enlightened future for one and all.
Today, I would like to ask each and every one of you to do one small thing after today’s event, this small thing is to put pen to paper appealing to your governments to focus on education and for them to take real action.
It is vital that education is their top priority.
I want to live in a world where free compulsory education is available everywhere to every child.
Let no one be forgotten.