SHARJAH: In a speech which won many hearts Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousufzai voiced what many women around the world wish to tell the world.
“I remember one of my very close friends who was forced to get married at the age of eleven. She became a target of early child marriage,” she said speaking at the second 'Investing in the Future' (IIFMENA) conference in Sharjah.
“Many women are relying on their brother and husbands for a living. If they got divorced or their husband passes away [they have no way out]. Which is why I know education is more than books, grades and passing exams.”
Education she said was more about “empowerment, freedom, independence”. “It is the ability to allow them to stand on their two feet,” she said.
She stressed that quality education is needed for both women and girls “so that they dream beyond limits”.
Malala said that women role models are important for girls. “Before I thought women could only be teachers or housewives. But when I saw women role models they broadened my vision. Benazir Bhutto who led my country, artists, astronauts, entrepreneurs, athletes.”
She said it was then when she realized that she could become anything she wanted in her life. “From becoming a doctor to becoming the prime minister of Pakistan and fixing all the issues.”
“And now my dream is to start a global movement of empowerment of girls through the Malala Fund,” she said.
She related an incident where she met a young girl in a refugee camp in Uganda who told her how war had displaced all of her family. In the camps where they lived they were a target of sexual violence and abuse. The girl’s friend who had also been victim of abuse was forced to become a mother at ten years of age. She said she cried with those girls that day.
“Men should respect women not just because we are half of the world population. But also because we have given birth to you,” she said.
In this regard, she said, the role of men is important adding that she had a voice today because her father believed in her, unlike many other brothers and fathers in her friends lives.
She said she was applying for university where she will study philosophy in politics and economics. “But at the same time my heart cries for my sisters in Pakistan and Afghanistan who become victims of early child marriage.”
She spoke about Mosul where children are used as human shields, Yemen and the sufferings of Palestine and Syria.
She said most people who suffer due to terrorism are Muslims and that Islam is a religion of peace and brotherhood.
“I dream of girls education and women empowerment. And as a feminist I will continue my struggle,” she said as she finished off her speech.