Malala Yousafzai becomes youngest U.N. peace messenger

Teenager Malala Yousafzai — who earned a Nobel Peace Prize for promoting the rights of girls — now holds the highest honor bestowed by the U.N. chief on a global citizen.

“It is important for girls to realize that their action and their voice is important, and it is needed right now,” the 19-year-old said after an April 10 ceremony where she was officially designated a U.N. Messenger of Peace. She is the youngest person to be so honored.

Such a distinction is not new to her. Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel laureate in 2014, when she was recognized for her advocacy of the right of all children to education. Earlier, her outspokenness in the cause of girls education, brought an attempt on her life by a member of the Taliban. The assassination attempt, near her home in northwest Pakistan, left her severely wounded. She went to Britain for medical treatment and now goes to school there.

“This is a new life, a second life, and it is for the purpose of education,” said Yousafzai, who expects to attend university in the fall to study philosophy, politics and economics.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres praised Yousafzai for her commitment to the rights of girls and all people. “Her courageous activism for girls’ education has already energized so many people around the world,” he said.

Other messengers of peace include actors Michael Douglas and Leonardo DiCaprio, musicians Daniel Barenboim and Yo-Yo Ma, and primatologist Jane Goodall.