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Girls & Women

Malala — Not Even in College — Is Being Given Yet Another Top Honor

Though Malala Yousafzai is still in the middle of the college acceptance process, she can now add another lifetime achievement award to her stunning and inspiring CV.

Today, the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, will designate Yousafzai a UN Messenger of Peace.

She is the youngest person to ever be awarded the designation, and joins a list of just 12 other individuals in the world who have the title.

Read More: Malala Is Probably Going to Oxford University

Yousafzai, who was targeted and attacked by the Taliban on her way to school in Pakistan in 2012, has become a global ambassador for girls’ education in recent years, and will have a special focus in that area in her Messenger of Peace role.

“Even in the face of grave danger, Malala Yousafzai has shown an unwavering commitment to the rights of women, girls and all people,” Guterres said in a statement. “Her courageous activism for girls’ education has already energized so many people around the world. Now as our youngest-ever UN Messenger of Peace, Malala can do even more to help create a more just and peaceful world.”

Read More: Yes, Malala Yousafzai Was Nervous at Her College Interview, Too

This isn’t the first time Yousafzai has been recognized for her work to bring about peace and progress for girls around the world. In 2014 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, in addition to a slew of other top honors and the 2013 celebration of “Malala Day” at the UN. She also runs the Malala Fund, which campaigns for countries to ensure that girls can attend school for a full 12 years to get an education.

The UN’s Messengers of Peace are tasked with raising awareness of the UN’s ideals and activities, helping to convey how the UN works to bring about peace in the world and why it is so important. Here’s a look at the company she’ll keep in her new role, including fellow Messengers Stevie Wonder, Charlize Theron, and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Read More: Malala Wants to Be Prime Minister of Pakistan Because of Course

HRH Princess Haya

Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, who founded an organization to combat hunger and poverty in her native Jordan, has a special focus on the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger.

Jane Goodall

The famed scientist and conservationist whose work with chimpanzees led to the founding of the The Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots & Shoots program, which supports tens of thousands of young people in nearly 100 countries with projects that help people, animals and the environment. Her focus as UN Messenger of Peace is on environmental issues.

Edward Norton

Oscar-winning actor and longtime environmental activist Edward Norton works with the UN to highlight the importance of biodiversity to the human health and also the well-being of the environment.

Charlize Theron

Actress Charlize Theron focuses her work with the UN on ending violence against women and the prevention of HIV transmission, a goal which led to her founding the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project in 2007 to educate African youth about how prevent HIV.

Daniel Barenboim

A famed pianist, conductor, and musical prodigy (his international debut was the age of 10), Barenboim founded an orchestra to bring together musicians from Israel and Arab countries to try and promote dialogue and peace, performing in the West Bank in 2005. His work focuses on the UN’s Alliance of Civilizations initiative, which tries to bring about respect for different religious beliefs and traditions.

Lang Lang

A classical musician who is considered one of the best contemporary musicians in the world, he founded the Lang Lang International Music Foundation in 2008 to encourage youth to use musical performance as a means of social development. He works with the UN on the Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative, in particular fostering global citizenship.

Stevie Wonder

The Grammy-award winning musician who has spent his career using his music to support people with disabilities, AIDS, cancer, diabetes, hunger, and homelessness, and domestic abuse has literally changed the world. He led the effort to have Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a recognized holiday in the United States and campaigned to end apartheid in South Africa. His focus as a UN Messenger of Peace is on people with disabilities.

Yo-Yo Ma

The world’s most famous cellist has been using his music to work for peace for nearly 20 years, founding the Silk Road Project in 1998 to bring together the cultural, artistic, and intellectual traditions of countries throughout the Silk Road trading route. He works with the UN to promote  music and the UN’s work with young people.  

Paulo Coelho

Brazilian author Paulo Coelho has used his success as a bestselling author (he wrote The Alchemist and The Pilgrimage) to help combat poverty and help the underprivileged in Brazil, educate men about violence against women, and advocate for multicultural education with the UN.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Sure, he was made famous for being in “Titanic,” but Academy Award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio has used the spotlight from his theatrical success to shine a light on environmental issues for nearly two decades. He started the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 1998 that now supports more than 35 conservation projects around the world in addition to his personal support and work on behalf of major environmental organizations. His work with the UN focuses specifically on climate change.

Michael Douglas

Hollywood legend Michael Douglas has used his time away from the silver screen (where he acts and produces) to advocate for weapons disarmament, including nuclear non-proliferation and ending illegal arms trade. He campaigns with the UN for tougher laws around illegal weapon trade and ownership and to end armed conflicts around the world.


The master violinist who made her solo debut at age 11, Midori has dedicated much of her life offstage to working on behalf of children — first by founding Midor & Friends, which brings music education to underprivileged children, and then with two other groups she helped found, Music Sharing and Partners in Performance, to spread the power of musical performance to those who are not normally involved in the arts. She focuses her UN role on inspiring young people through music education to build a sense of community and learn from each other.

Information provided by the United Nations.