Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, will be a key speaker at the second ‘Investing in the Future’ (IIFMENA) conference in Sharjah.
The conference is being organised by The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a Sharjah-based international humanitarian body dedicated to aiding vulnerable people worldwide.
The event, titled: ‘Building the Resilience of Women and Girls in the Arab Region’ is being conducted in collaboration with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), from October 19 and 20.
The forum will bring together government officials, representatives of international and non-governmental organisations, advocates of gender equality, academics and a number of experts and media personalities from across the world.
It will provide a platform for engaging discussions highlighting the need to incorporate women and young girls into decision-making through economic empowerment, paying attention to their specific needs in education, skills-training and employment, said the event organisers.
Mariam Al Hammadi, the director of Salam Ya Seghar – a TBHF initiative – said: "We are eager advocates of our girls' right to education. The UAE, since its inception, has always stood strongly for this."
"Our efforts are in line with our leadership's firm belief in knowledge contributing to building and strengthening women's capacities, allowing them to effectively participate in community development. Educated women are better able to serve their families and nations and can work to a higher capacity to ensure stability and progress in their respective countries," she stated.
On the symbolism behind bringing Yousafzai as a key speaker at the event, Al Hammadi said: "She is a role model for girls and women across the world. Her fight against the oppressive forces creating roadblocks for female education and empowerment is one of the bravest the world has ever seen."
Yousafzai defied the Taliban and demanded that girls be allowed to receive an education in her native Swat Valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Northwest Pakistan.
She refused the ban issued by the Taliban Movement in 2009 and continued to go to school along with a few girls who decided to hold on to their right to education. Her streak of defiance came out strongly in an Urdu blog she wrote for the BBC, reaffirming that her thirst for education was stronger than her fear of the Taliban.
The blog marked a turning point in Yousafzai's advocacy, which grew into an international movement.
"Her determination and insistence in the process to the extent of being shot for her cause not only leaves an imprint on her nation and society, but on ours and on societies across the world," stated Al Hammadi.
Yousafzai expressed her delight for being given the opportunity to talk about the challenges for girls in getting access to education in her country.
She highlighted the importance of empowering girls to fulfill their wishes and effectively contribute to developing their communities and getting involved in the development process. She stressed that the impressive presence of international attendees at the conference will allow her to make the voices of her same-aged counterparts heard in order to ensure a better future for them.
Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi of India were named joint winners of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for their outstanding contributions and achievements in humanitarian work.
Another key participant at the conference will be Malala's father Ziauddin Yousafzai, a Pakistani diplomat and the current UN Special Advisor on Global Education and the educational attache of Pakistan in its consulate in Birmingham, UK.
Yousafzai will be one of the key speakers during , which is set as the first roundtable panel discussion during the first day of the conference.
The second edition of the IIFMENA conference will strive to further cement the grounds that are being laid for women to be recognised as equals and as agents of change for peace and economic prosperity, said the organisers. The conference aims to support all women, including refugees and displaced persons, by working to meet their needs and to ensure full rights and justice for them, they added.
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