UNESCO and Pakistan launch Malala Fund for Girls' Education

© UNESCO/E.Urbano, From left to right: Michelle Bachelet, Executive Directo of UN Women, Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan, Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, French Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, and UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown

Pakistan makes first donation of $10million

On 10 December, UNESCO and Pakistan launched the Malala Fund for Girls’ Education at a high-level event held as part of the celebrations for Human Rights Day. At the event – Stand Up for Malala, Girls’ Education is a Right – the President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari announced that his country would donate the first $10 million.

Opened by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and President Zardari, the occasion was dedicated to 15-year-old Pakistani school girl Malala Yousafzai,  who was the target of an assassination attempt by the Taliban last October because of her defense of the right of girls to go to school. The aim was to give new momentum to the quest to provide access to school for all girls by 2015.

© UNESCO/E. Urbano
Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan, and Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General

Other keynote speakers included French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Executive Director of UN Women Michelle Bachelet, UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, and former president of Finland Tarja Halonen. They adopted a Statement of Commitment to Girls’ Rights to Education, promising “to actively strive to make every effort to end all forms of violence against girls and to eliminate the obstacles that prevent them from attending school.”  

The Statement, also endorsed by ministers and high level representatives from Afghanistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates, the Special representative of the UN Secretary general for Children and Armed Conflict and the Director General of ISESCO, further  pledged “to defend girls’ education as a basic human right and precondition for sustainable development and lasting peace”.

© UNESCO/E. Urbano
Jean-Marc Ayrault (French Prime Minister) and Irina Bokova.

© UNESCO/E.Urbano

The event  reinforced the momentum provided by the “Education First” initiative launched earlier this year by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which calls on governments, international organizations, civil society,  the private sector  and religious leaders to make girls’ education a priority.

“Too many girls, in too many countries, are held back simply because they are girls, said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “They are forced to work, they are married off, they are taken away from school. Today, there are 32 million girls out of primary school, and a similar amount out of secondary school. Girls’ education is a basic right – it’s also a lever for development that benefits the whole of society; girls and boys, men and women.”

“Two forces oppose each other in my country,” said President Zardari. “Malala represents the forces of peace and we are struggling against the forces of darkness, of hate and violence […]  We need the whole world’s support to help all Malalas go to school.”

“Malala’s story shows us that the so-called relativity of human rights is a myth and a deception,” said the French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. “Who does not feel anger and revolt over her story? Who could accept that a child be deprived of access to school simply because she’s a girl? Malala’s story also teaches us that we are right to make education, and especially girls’ education, a priority in development aid.”

“We are more determined than ever,” said Gordon Brown, “that by the end of 2015 we will meet the Millennium Development Goal that every single girl and boy is at school.”

Video messages were presented at the event by UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton.

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