VIDEO

Malala calls on world to make education top priority

Malala Yousafzai speaks at an International Day of the Girl event at World Bank Headquarters on Oct 11, 2013 in Washington, DC. Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl activist who has become a world champion of girls' rights, called on Friday for
Malala Yousafzai speaks at an International Day of the Girl event at World Bank Headquarters on Oct 11, 2013 in Washington, DC. Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl activist who has become a world champion of girls' rights, called on Friday for the World Bank to make education its top priority. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl activist who has become a world champion of girls' rights, called on Friday for the World Bank to make education its top priority.

Seated on a stage with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in a one-on-one presentation in Washington, the 16-year-old Malala delivered a poised, articulate and impassioned plea for children's education.

Asked by Kim for her advice to the World Bank, Malala noted that organisations spend much of their money on health, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (Aids) and other programs.

"But I think all those organisations must make education their top priority," she said.

Such a focus would fight child labour, child trafficking, poverty and Aids, all at once, she argued.

Mr Kim, who has called her "a powerful symbol of hope", announced the World Bank was donating US$200 million (S$250 million) to the Malala Fund, a foundation she launched to help girls around the world go to school and promote universal access to education.

Malala said that she decided to create the fund because she needed to do "work on the ground" to promote education, in addition to speaking out about the issues.

She also is promoting her book, out this month - I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And Was Shot By The Taliban, a tale of her family and life in the Swat Valley, her attack by the Taleban, her recovery and her mission to champion children's right to an education.

Malala was shot in the head by the Pakistani Taleban on October 9, 2012, for speaking out against their ideology.

She recalled to a packed audience at the World Bank that her father campaigned for women's rights, in a Pakistani society that favours sons. She realised when she was about 13 and 14 that the Taleban might attack her father for his support of women, and she started to prepare for an attack against herself.

"If a Talib comes, he has a gun and he's going to shoot me, I will tell him, then shoot me, but listen to me first. Listen to my voice... And I will tell him that I want even education for their sons and daughters. I'm not speaking against them. I'm not against any person. I am against their ideology... why are they against education?"

The remarkable journey of the young girl from Pakistan, now feted worldwide and walking in the halls of power, has drawn the ire of the Taleban.

Speculation mounted recently that she would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Instead, early Friday it was awarded to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The Tehreek-e-Taleban Pakistan proclaimed they were "delighted" that she missed out on the prize. On Thursday the TTP threatened to kill her "even in America or the UK" after she won the European Union's prestigious Sakharov human rights prize.

"She has done nothing," TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told AFP. "She is getting awards because she is working against Islam."

Asked by a girl in the World Bank audience how she lives a normal teenage life, Malala replied: "I have accepted this busy life for a reason... the education of every child."

Malala, who used to want to become a doctor, now says her goal is to be a politician to effect change.

"I believe that today's dreams become tomorrow's realities. And let us make our dreams these realities."