Malala Yousufzai Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: Pakistani activist Malala Yousufzai will be a key speaker at the second ‘Investing in the Future’ (IIFMENA) conference in Sharjah on October 19-20.

The second IIFMENA conference titled ‘Building the Resilience of Women and Girls in the Arab Region’ is being organised by The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a Sharjah-based international humanitarian body in collaboration with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).

The conference will provide a platform for 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.

The two-day 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.

“We are eager advocates of our girls’ right to education. The UAE, since its inception, has always stood strongly for this. 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,” said Mariam Al Hammadi, director of Salam Ya Seghar — a TBHF initiative.

She pointed out that Malala, the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, 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. 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,” added Al Hammadi.

In 2009, Malala 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 defied the ban issued by the Taliban 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 Malala’s advocacy, which grew into an international movement.

Commenting on her participation in the conference, Malala expressed her delight for be given the opportunity to talk about the challenges that face girls’ access to education in her country. She highlighted the importance of empowering girls to effectively contribute to developing their communities and stressed that the impressive presence of international attendees at the conference will allow her to make the voices of her peers heard in order to ensure a better future for them.

The conference’s second edition will also aim to support all women, including refugees and displaced persons, by working to meet their needs and to ensure full rights and justice for them.