Malala Yousafzai celebrated her 18th birthday by opening up a school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon.
The youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai called on world leaders to invest in “books not bullets” during the school’s opening.
“Today on my first day as an adult, on behalf of the world’s children, I demand of leaders we must invest in books instead of bullets.”
Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban while she was on a school bus in Pakistan in 2012. She used the incident to advocate girls’ rights to education and became a symbol of defiance against extremist groups.
After campaigning her cause, Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
The new Malala Yousafzai All-Girls School can hold up to 200 girls and will be home to students aged 14 to 18.
The school was paid for by the Malala Fund, which is a non-profit organization created to support education projects. It is located in the Bekaa Valley, close to the Syrian border that many of the girls crossed to get to safety.
Of the four million refugees that fled Syria due to the ongoing war, 1.2 million found a new home in Lebanon. Malala Yousafzai picked Lebanon because it is home to so many refugees who are still in need months after crossing the border.
“I decided to be in Lebanon because I believe that the voices of the Syrian refugees need to be heard and they have been ignored for so long.”
Of the 500,000 school-age children in Lebanon that are from Syria, only about 20 percent are in school, which is another reason why Malala Yousafzai chose to open a school in the country.
“On this day, I have a message for the leaders of this country, this region and the world–you are failing the Syrian people, especially Syria’s children. This is a heartbreaking tragedy–the world’s worst refugee crisis in decades.”
Lebanon said that it can not continue to support the amount of people that have come into the country during the four-year conflict in Syria. One in four people living in Lebanon is a refugee.
Malala Yousafzai said that turning away refugees at the border is “inhuman and shameful.”
By the end of the year, the United Nations estimates that the number of Syrian refugees in nearby countries will rise to 4.27 million.
Malala Yousafzai’s call for leaders to invest in education prompted the hashtag #booksnotbullets, which archives photos people upload of them and others reading around the world.
A grant of $250,000 was awarded by the Malala Fund to go toward efforts by UNICEF and UNHCR to help fund education for girls in a Jordanian refugee camp.
[Photo By Ragnar Singsaas/Getty Images]