Malala Yousafzai, one of the world's most famous teen activists, is officially a 20-something. And, in typical fashion, she's marking that milestone by putting the spotlight on girls forced from school by conflict and violence.
Yousafzai spent the days ahead of her July 12 birthday in Iraq, where she visited a camp for families displaced by fighting in the city of Mosul, Refinery29 has learned. The trip also included some "early birthday fun" with a group of girls at a local amusement park, complete with ferris wheel rides, bumper cars, and cotton candy.
"I hope you will stay strong, go back to school as soon as you can and have hope that your future can be better than the dark days behind you," Yousafzai told the girls, according to The Malala Fund. "I believe in you — and I will tell the world that you need our support.”
Using her birthday to highlight the needs of girls worldwide has become somewhat of a tradition for the Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist, who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban in her home country of Pakistan in 2012. She rang in 18 by opening a school for refugees in Lebanon and celebrated 19 with a call to action for her cause of getting more girls in school across the globe.
This year's birthday volunteerism is also part of her Girl Power Trip, a multi-continent tour to promote her eponymous foundation's mission and recruit the next generation of leaders on the issue. Yousafzai kicked off the summer-long travel blitz with an April visit to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where she met with refugees, volunteers, and students at a local high school.
"I use my voice as the voice of all young girls across the world... and I'll continue to do that," she told Refinery29 at the time. "It is a big challenge, because there are so many issues: from child marriage to child trafficking to [cultural] issues and taboos and poverty. To tackle them, I hope to stay strong, stay focused, and to remain clever."
Yousafzai's visit to Iraq comes on the heels of the government declaring victory over the Islamic State in Mosul, the country's second-largest city. Ahead, an intimate look at her visit with girls impacted by the conflict.