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Malala Urges Pakistani Women, Girls To Stand Up For Rights

Pakistani Nobel laureate and education activist Malala Yousafzai (file photo)
Pakistani Nobel laureate and education activist Malala Yousafzai (file photo)

Nobel Peace Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai has called for gender equality in her native Pakistan, urging women and girls there to struggle for their rights through education.

Malala, 19, made her appeal in an interview with RFE/RL on March 7, ahead of UN-designated International Women's Day.

She said girls and women were particularly hurt by armed conflicts and poverty, as well as sexual violence and underage marriages.

"Cultural taboos are also bitterly affecting girls," she added, "and that’s because the society is not giving equal status to girls and boys."

Malala survived a 2012 assassination attempt by fundamentalist Taliban fighters in Pakistan's Swat Valley that followed threats over the then-14-year-old's blogging and other high-profile activities to promote girls' education. She became the youngest-ever Nobel Peace laureate in 2014.

Malala said men should ensure education for their daughters and sisters and "give them the right to take their own decisions for themselves."

She also called on women and girls to "keep confidence in themselves."

"You have lots of talent and skills that can prove helpful for our country," Malala said. "If we want to progress, then you should come forward."

But she insisted that improvement would only come through education.

“Only our struggle through pen can take us forward, she insisted. “This is the biggest jihad we can do.”

The Global Campaign For Education says more than 60 percent of the 5 million or so primary-school-aged children who don't attend school in Pakistan are women.

Malala now lives in Birmingham, England.