Malala Day to help education battle
A global day to call for the education of all girls and women is to be held in honour of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot by the Taliban.
Her father Ziauddin and former prime minister Gordon Brown outlined plans for Malala Day as they appeared at the Women of the World Festival at London's Southbank Centre on International Women's Day.
Mr Brown said that the issue of universal education for girls was in desperate need of a "liberation movement and a freedom fight for change".
Malala Day will be held on her 16th birthday, July 12, and will be celebrated with a youth assembly at the United Nations in New York. It is hoped that young people from around the world will mark the day, aimed at providing education for the 32 million girls who do not currently have access.
Mr Brown, UN special envoy for global education, has appointed Mr Yousafzai as a special adviser. Speaking at the event at Queen Elizabeth Hall, campaigner Sarah Brown - Mr Brown's wife - told the audience that "education is key to unlocking women's leadership". "Closing the gender gap in education so girls are staying in education as long as boys should be a priority," she added.
Running up to Malala Day, meetings will be held in Washington DC next month to discuss a package of commitments to end child marriage, seen as a barrier to girls' access to education, Mr Brown said. He will also meet UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Jim Kim to create a plan for girls' education for all by the end of 2015, with the focus on those countries with the highest number of girls out of school.
Malala, 15, was shot in the head in October 2015 for fighting for girls' right to an education. She was treated in a Birmingham hospital and is continuing to recover from her injuries in the UK.
Malala's peers in Pakistan are "very proud" of her, said Mr Yousafzai. "People associate themselves with her and the cause," he said. "It gives a very strong message that the people of Pakistan will never compromise on education. They will even defend it, at the cost of their life." Children in the West who "moan" about having to go to school would realise its importance if education was taken away from them, he added.
Mr Brown praised Malala and others who speak out about education, saying the attempt on her life illustrated in a dramatic way the impact of education being denied to girls. "People in Pakistan are realising they have been silent for too long," he said. "For the first time, people are prepared to stand up and be counted."
He said the public had to put pressure on global governments to bring about change in the area of girls' education. Despite an initial impact on pupil numbers when the goal to provide education for every child in the world was announced in 2000, more now needs to be done, according to the former prime minister. "The reason it's not happening is that there is not sufficient pressure for it to be," he added. There are currently 500 million illiterate women in the world, twice the number of illiterate men, according to Mr Brown.