Malala was addressing the second ‘Investing in the Future’ (IIFMENA) conference in Sharjah on Wednesday afternoon.
Pakistani female education activist Malala Yousafzai, the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, a key speaker at the two-day ‘Investing in the Future’ (IIFMENA) conference in Sharjah, spoke extensively about the need for peace, education, empowerment of women and her aspirations of becoming Prime Minister of Pakistan, someday.
Her talk centred around three key areas that she considered vital for women empowerment – quality education, need for women role models and role of men.
“I remember my very close friend who was married of at the age of 11 and became a target of early child marriage. I remember many women relying on their brothers and fathers for living, if they got divorced or their husbands passed away. That is why I know that quality education for girls is not just learning books, passing exams and getting jobs. It is empowerment, freedom and nourishment. It is independence, giving them ability to be self sufficient.
I cannot imagine myself for a second without education. Education is needed the most for girls and women. We need to inspire women to dream beyond limits and in order to do that we need women role models.”
Talking to Khaleej Times, Malala said: “This event shows that there is a positive change coming in the Arab world. It is a way to reach out to women especially in the Middle East. We want Muslim women to believe in themselves. Women need to participate in this movement of empowering women. Through such events we see inspiring and amazing women who are not only standing up for their rights but are also ensuring that women participate actively in different fields and definitely it is a positive change.”
Need to inspire women Talking about her childhood, Malala said: “When I was in Grade 4, I remember I could only think of women as doctors, teachers or otherwise housewives, nothing else. But when I saw women role models, it broadened my vision. I saw Benazir Bhutto as woman leader and prime minister of Pakistan.
“I heard about women athletes, astronauts, artists, entrepreneurs and many more leading roles that women were taking up. This allowed me to recognise the potential that I have as a woman to achieve anything in my life. And my dream changed from becoming a doctor to becoming the Prime Minister of Pakistan fixing all the issues and bringing in education to my people.”
Malala said that in order to inspire women and girls we need to show them role models from the past to current to enlighten them to dream without limits.
“And if there isn’t any woman role model in a certain field then we encourage them to be the first.”
Citing the example of a young refugee girl she met at a refugee camp in Rhwanda, Malala said the message that girl gave made her cry.
“The young girl was not only made homeless but was also a victim of violence and sexual abuse. She became a mother when she was still in school. But at the end she had a message for men which was that men should respect women because we are not only half of the population but we are also the half who have given birth to them.”
Role of men important Emphasising the fact that women emancipation and empowerment is incomplete without men’s participation, Malala said: “If my father did not allow me and encourage me to believe in my voice, I would not have been able to stand here and speak out just like many other girls in my hometown, who were not allowed by their brothers and parents.”
Malala, who is now 19 years old and is in her final year of secondary school, is planning to join university and study Philosophy, Politics and Economics.
“As this event talks about what we can do together, the commitments we can make to ensure peace, equality to women, to ensure women empowerment. I make a commitment to myself, to the children needing education and to all women needing a voice, that I’ll continue my struggle for quality education, women empowerment and peace.”