Malala Yousafzai rang in her 20th birthday in fun and meaningful fashion: eating candy floss and riding carnival rides with a group of girls who had been forced out of school in Mosul.
The young Pakistani activist visited Iraq as part of her Girl Power Trip around the world, visiting young women at refugee camps and teaching them the importance of pursuing an education.
“Two days ago, I landed in northern Iraq, just as the government declared victory in Mosul,” the Nobel Peace Prize recipient wrote on her blog Wednesday. “Fighting in the streets may be over, but our fight for girls continues.”
Malala further brought attention to the cause by singling out individual girls who have been affected by ISIS’ control of the region.
“I chose to spend my birthday this year in Iraq to meet girls like 13-year-old Nayir. When extremists occupied Mosul, Nayir could not go to school for three years,” she wrote. “Her family fled the city in April, when her father was captured by ISIS. They haven’t heard from him since. Nayir is one of three million displaced people in Iraq. Half are children and almost half of them aren’t in school. The odds are worse for girls.”
In photos shared to the Malala Fund’s official Instagram page, the teen activist can be seen speaking with a gathering of young women while picking at a large pink swirl of cotton candy, and riding a carousel, all smiles.
“Malala spent her birthday in Iraq sharing cotton candy and riding the ferris wheel with girls forced out of school by violence in Mosul and other towns,” one caption reads. “She arrived just as the government declared victory in Mosul.”
According to NBC News, the education advocate had thoughtful words for her birthday “party” guests.
“Education is so important not only for your future, but for your community’s future,” she told a group of young women. “I pray that you will be able to return home to Mosul and use your education to help rebuild your city.”
Malala first became an iconic figure after she was shot in the head by the Taliban while on a school bus in 2012 at the young age of 15. Doctors had to remove a portion of her skull to ensure full recovery, and in the months and years following, she became an inspirational speaker and education activist. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 alongside Kailash Satyarthi, making her the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.