The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, has praised the bravery of Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl injured in an assassination attempt on her way home from school earlier this month. The Director-General made her comments at a tribute for Malala organized by UNESCO’s Executive Board, during the final day of its 190th session.
The Director-General also reiterated UNESCO’s determination to continue the fight to ensure the right of all girls and boys to education. “Whenever and wherever a young girl is forbidden from going to school, it’s an attack against all girls, against the right to learn, the right to live life to the full; and it is unacceptable,” the Director-General said.
“In April, in Afghanistan, more than 100 high school students from the Takhar province were poisoned by fanatics hostile to girls’ education. In Mali, young girls are married by force, recruited by militia, and prevented from going to school and leading a dignified life. Malala is the symbol of all of these young girls. We stand by them all and salute their courage. We support their struggle for the basic right of each individual to an education, in Pakistan and elsewhere.”
Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Permanent Delegate of Pakistan to UNESCO, said: "Today as Malala lies in a critical condition in a hospital in the UK, awaiting skull reconstruction surgery, she has become a worldwide icon, a symbol for girls’ right to education. As we pay tribute to her here, we also pay tribute to tens of thousands of brave Malalas, brave young girls around the world."
On 9 October, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head as she travelled home from school in a bus in Swat, in north-eastern Pakistan. According to media reports, the Taleban have claimed responsibility for the attack during which two other schoolgirls were injured. Malala Yousafzai was transferred to a British hospital on 15 October for prolonged medical treatment.
Malala Yousafzai attracted public attention in 2009 when she published a blog telling of her life in Swat, in an area under Taleban control. She then became an activist campaigning for the rights of children and girls.
The day following the attack, on 10 October, the Director-General issued a press release denouncing the attempted murder. She wished to express her support for the Pakistani schoolgirl, who became a symbol of the struggle in favour of the right to education.