On August 18, 2014, four UB students were fortunate to attend an event at the Trusteeship Council Chamber at the United Nations Headquarters where the UN Secretary General and Malala Yousafzai launched the “500 Days of Action to Build A Better World.” All four students – Joel Amegboh (M.A. Global Development & Peace), Ibraheem K. Bangash (M.A. Global Development & Peace), Helen Humphreys (B.A. International Political Economy and Diplomacy), and Miguel Arroyo ( Ed.D. Student) – were thrilled to attend the event.

Ibraheem and Miguel share their reflections below.

Miguel Arroyo, Ed.D.:

The event was attended by 500 youths from all around the world (4 UB students), and one of us, Joel Amegboh (GLDP student from Togo), was designated to direct questions to Malala. It’s not often that we’re able to have such a large UB presence at the United Nations, especially at such an important youth event. All of us took pictures (or selfies) with Malala, and we even got the chance to talk to her family. Malala is an inspiration for many of us. Her resilience, wisdom, and mission to promote education among young girls and vulnerable children is admirable. She is one of the reasons why I choose to pursue a career in education.

Ibraheem K. Bangash, M.A. Global Development & Peace:

Malala Yousafzai, an education activist for women, hails from the small town of Mingora in the Swat valley of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan’s Northwestern region. She became an international figure when she spoke out about the importance of women’s education and spoke out against the Taliban’s efforts to suppress it. In 2012, she was forced off a bus and was shot three times and almost lost her life. Fortunately, she survived and became an even more formidable advocate of women’s education and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

To my great luck, Malala and her family had a scheduled visit to the United Nations on August 18, 2014, and I had the opportunity to meet this brave and inspiring young woman in person. It was an interactive conversation between UN Secretary, General Ban Ki-Moon, and Malala, moderated by Good Morning America’s Amy Robach. His Excellency Ban Ki-moon, and Ms. Yousafzai, co-founder of the Malala Fund, participated in an interactive conversation regarding the remaining “500 Days of Action” for the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). They spoke about the achievements of MDG in addressing poverty and hunger and in furthering education.

I was fortunate to meet Malala during my time as an intern at the Pakistan Mission to the United Nations. We spoke briefly right after the conference in the Trusteeship Council at the United Nations. I felt overwhelmed to speak with her and her entire family. Since we are from the same region, we conversed in our native regional language “Pashtu.” In the beginning she was surprised to see someone who spoke her language, but she remained very poised while we were speaking.

Malala remains committed to advancing the cause of women’s education in the world. She continues to express her commitment to make the fundamental right to education accessible to the people of her own region as well. After meeting her, I became even more proud of having her as one of my compatriots. Without a doubt, she is a global leader and has huge potential to plant seeds of change.

It was also an honor to meet her father, Mr. Ziauddin Yousafzai, who has been her constant support in this cause. I wish Malala great success in the noble efforts that she is pursuing alongside her family.