Malala Yousafzai has returned to Pakistan for the first time since she was shot in the head, in an attack intended to silence her campaigning on girls’ education. 

The activist, who is now 20 and studying at Oxford University, was attacked by the Taliban at just 15, in 2012. The group said at the time she was “promoting Western culture.” 

Malala met with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in Islamabad Pakistan's capital city, who welcomed her home and said she has returned "as the most prominent citizen of Pakistan." Malala then gave a short speech on television. 

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"It's the happiest day of my life," she said in the speech, in tears. "I still can't believe it's happening. "I don't normally cry... I'm still 20 years old but I've seen so many things in life. Whenever I travel in a plane, car I see the cities of London, New York and I was told that just imagine this is Pakistan, imagine that you are traveling in Islamabad, imagine that your are in Karachi. And it was never true. But now today I see I am here. I am extremely happy."

Details of her four-day trip are being “kept secret in view of the sensitivity surrounding the visit,” an official told AFP news agency . 

It’s not yet know whether Malala will visit her hometown of Swat, in the north-west of the country, which Malala described earlier this month as “paradise on earth.”

Read more: Malala Just Sent a Powerful Open Letter to Commonwealth Leaders Calling for Girls' Education

“I have received a lot of support in my country,” Malala told David Letterman, a US talk-show host, in a Netflix special. 

“There is this lust for change,” she added. “People want to see change in their country. I am already doing work there but I want my feet to touch that land.” 

It was in Swat that Malala was attacked, along with two other girls, while they were on a school bus after taking an exam. The gunman asked “who is Malala?” before he fired. She was taken to a military hospital in Pakistan, before moving to the UK to recover.

Malala had previously begun writing an anonymous diary about life under the Taliban rule, at just 11, for BBC Urdu. She became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2014, when she received the award jointly with Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi.

The Taliban, which remains active in the country, have specifically targeted schools and colleges in attacks, reported the BBC, killing hundreds of people. 

Read more: Millions of Children in Emergencies Are Denied an Education. But That Can Change

Earlier this month, Malala penned an open letter to the 53 leaders of the Commonwealth countries, calling them to ensure girls’ education is on the agenda at the Commonwealth Summit, to be held in London in April.

“Together we are fighting for what has been promised but not delivered for far too long: 12 years of safe, free, quality education for every girl,” she wrote. 

Global Citizen campaigns to support the UN’s Global Goals, which include action on gender equality, and education. You can join us by taking action on these issues here . By taking action with us, you can also earn free tickets to see Emeli Sandé, Professor Green, Naughty Boy, Gabrielle Aplin, Lady Leshurr, Kojo Funds, and Little Simz live at Global Citizen Live on April 17 at O2 Academy Brixton. Click here to find out more . 


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Malala Returns to Pakistan for the First Time Since She Was Shot

By Imogen Calderwood