Fifteen-year-old Pakistani education rights activist Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head and neck by a Taliban gunman on her way home from school last October, was honored Monday at the UNESCO conference in Paris.
At Monday’s “Stand Up for Malala” event marking Human Rights Day, officials from UNESCO and Pakistan launched a fund for girls’ education in her name. Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari pledged the first $10 million.
Yousafzai remained in a British hospital recovering from her gunshot wounds, but a young Yemini schoolgirl read a statement on her behalf at Mondays’ conference. "My dream is to see all children, especially girls, going to school to be educated,” the young girl read. “I dream of the peaceful world where all human beings are accommodating and tolerant. I wish to see equality and justice for all men and women."
World leaders including French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and UN Special Envoy for Global Education (and former U.K. Prime Minister) Gordon Brown spoke at the event, while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton taped video messages to be presented.
“Today we stand together with Malala and the millions of other girls and women who literally risk their lives to get an education,” Clinton said on the video. “Getting an education is important to the future of every girl. It’s also important, though, for all of us, collectively, because when men and women have the same opportunities to an education, societies are better off. Economies flourish.”
Clinton praised Yousafzai while accepting a humanitarian award last week in Dublin. “All of us were moved by the story of the young Pakistani girl, Malala, who was targeted by the Taliban for the effrontery for going to school--more than that, speaking out for the rights of girls in Pakistan to go to school. She was miraculously spared from being literally shot in the face and is making what appears to be an excellent recovery.”
Zardari called Yousefzai “a young, determined daughter of my country.”
“We are facing two forces in the country, Malala represents the forces of peace and we are fighting with the forces of darkness, hatred and violence,” the president said. Zardari visited Yousafzai and her family Saturday at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in England, where she has been recovering. NBC’s Amna Nawaz reported that Zardari said that Yousafzai is doing well and continues to recover. Sources have told NBC News that Yousafzai has not yet had the cranial reconstructive surgery to replace the part of her skull that was removed to reduce brain swelling after the shooting, but that may happen in the next few weeks.
Nawaz also reported that the two girls who were with Malala when she was shot and also sustained shooting injuries have now recovered and are back in school. “[They] send Malala their well wishes,” Nawaz told Andrea Mitchell Reports Monday. “They also said that they’re determined to continue to get their education.”