UNITED NATIONS – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani education activist, ‘a daughter of the United Nations’ when he spoke to her on Friday to mark the 1,000-day milestone in the run-up to a Millennium Development Goal to reduce poverty by the end of 2015.
In a Skype conversation from Madrid, where the secretary-general is on a visit, he described the 15-year-old who was attacked by the Taliban for opposing restrictions on going to school as ‘a symbol of hope, a daughter of the United Nations’, according to a video of the talk released at UN Headquarters in New York.
Later, the secretary-general formally kicked off the campaign tagged ‘MDG Momentum – 1,000 Days of Action’, urging countries to ramp up efforts to meet the anti-poverty targets set in 2000.
“The UN will always be with you and the many people like you,” he told Malala. She responded by volunteering herself to work for the rights of girls and the rights of all people.
“When we work together we can achieve our goal and our goal is simple: peace and happiness in this world. The way to see peace is through education. It is an honour for me to be associated with the UN. I want to tell the world how important education is,” Malala told the secretary-general.
She added that she wants to be a leader and ‘to serve this whole world’.
Malala was shot in the head and neck on October 9, 2012, for opposing Taliban restrictions on female education as she left school in Mingora, Swat. Two other girls were also wounded.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the youngster was ‘pro-West’, had been promoting Western culture and had been speaking out against them.
“I can walk. I can talk. I can do anything!” Malala told the secretary-general. “If we educate a woman, we educate a family, a community and a country.” Ban told the youngster that he was ‘deeply impressed’ and looked forward to meeting her.
Also on Friday, Ban called for accelerated action in the next 1,000 days from governments, international organisations and civil society groups to reach the MDGs by their deadline at the end of 2015.
The eight time-bound MDGs address education, gender equality, poverty and hunger, child mortality, maternal health, combating AIDS, malaria and other diseases, environmental sustainability and a global partnership for development. Meanwhile, Martin Nesirky, the UN spokesman, said the secretary-general had wanted to speak with Malala for some time and decided to do so via Skype Friday. Nesirky said Malala is a symbol of education, which is one of the development goals.
SOURCE: The Nation