Education activist and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai turned 18 years old on Sunday and celebrated by furthering her efforts toward giving every child an education. According to NBC News, she spent the day in Lebanon near the Syria border opening a secondary school for Syrian girl refugees, a group she believes to be forgotten by world leaders.
The non-profit Malala Fund paid for the school, located in an informal refugee settlement in the Beka’a Valley. It will reportedly welcome up to 200 girls aged 14-18.
Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating for girls’ rights to education. She continued her efforts and won the Nobel Prize in 2014. Her work in Lebanon is particularly important as the country now hosts 1.2 million of the 4 million refugees from the Syrian conflict, NBC News reports, with only a fifth of the school-age children there receiving a formal education.
Lebanon, Jordan and other countries bordering Syria have struggled with the influx of refugees in recent years. Malala gave a moving address at the school’s opening ceremony, speaking out against world leaders and their lack of attention to the region as well as the larger problem. She began by saying, “Today on my first day as an adult, on behalf of the world’s children, I demand of leaders that we must invest in books instead of bullets,” IB Times reported. Malala insisted world leaders and international agencies listen and take action or the result “will be a generation lost.”
Despite her young age, this is not the first time Malala has called upon powerful figures to make a change. Two years ago, on her 16th birthday, she spoke at the U.N. and asked that every child receive a free education up to the secondary level.
In an on-camera interview with the BBC, she explained how becoming an adult makes her no less entitled to work on solving children’s issues. The activist went on to discuss her ambition of attending Oxford to study PPE (philosophy, politics, economics), suggesting that if she’s going to help children of the world achieve a quality education, she requires one herself.