11/12/2013 at 11:55 AM EST
At just 16, she has experienced enough pain and struggle to fill a lifetime. Yet she remains defiant – and above all, fearless.
On Monday, before a rapt and adoring audience at Glamour
's Women of the Year awards in New York, Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai
shared her dream for a better world for children through education – preaching bravery against the forces of oppression that just a year ago tried to murder her.
"We must not be afraid of anything. We must not be afraid of anything!" Yousafzai said. "I believe that a gun has no power at all. Because a gun can only take life. But a pen can save lives."
It's an astonishing perspective from someone who almost died after being shot by the Taliban last October in an assassination attempt. But Yousafzai is driven by a single-minded belief in the power of education to transform the world – and sees hope in the smallest of opportunities.
"One student, one teacher, one book and one pen can save the world," she said. "Girls in Pakistan don't desire Xboxes or any of those other luxurious things. They just want a book and a pen."
On a night when Lady Gaga
, another Women of the Year honoree
, criticized Glamour
for making her look "too beautiful" on the magazine's December cover,
Yousafzai also commented on the topic of beauty, by quoting Kahlil Gibran: "Beauty is not in the face. Beauty is the light in the heart."
She went on to salute the "hundreds and thousands of girls" who are fighting just like she is, but without the recognition.
"They are speaking, they're struggling for their rights," she said. "So I accept this award on behalf of those girls and everyone who is standing up for education."
Reporting by JANINE RUBENSTEIN