Malala Yousufzai | Nobel laureate and activist Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News

Sharjah: Global girls’ education activist Malala Yousufzai, 19, aspires to become the prime minister of Pakistan, she said during the Investing in the Future conference in Sharjah on Wednesday.

Malala, who survived a targeted gun attack in her home district of Swat in Pakistan in 2012, said she wants to hold Pakistan’s top job one day to empower women and realise her full potential.

Her comments came as part of the opening session of the two-day conference, which this year is being held under the agenda of ‘Building the Resilience of Women and Girls in the Arab Region’.

In 2014, Malala, then aged 17, became the youngest-ever Nobel laureate after winning the Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle against illiteracy and gender discrimination.

On Wednesday, Malala recalled how as a fourth grader, she and her peers back home were resigned to the belief that women could only become doctors, teachers or housewives.

“But when I saw women role models, it broadened my vision. I saw Benazir Bhutto as a woman leader [who was] twice the prime minister of Pakistan. I heard about women athletes, women astronauts, women artists, women entrepreneurs … It allowed me to recognise the potential that I had, and that I can have as a woman, to achieve anything in my life. And my dream changed from becoming a doctor to becoming the prime minister of Pakistan, [for] fixing all the issues in bringing education [to all],” Malala said, drawing applause from the audience.

She added “and now my dream is to also spread a global movement” for girls’ education, empowerment, and advocates through the Malala Fund.

In her opening remarks, she thanked the UAE for providing treatment to her after the attack, carried out on her by a Taliban gunman inside her school bus in Pakistan four years ago.

Malala also called for an end to violence plaguing Muslim and Arab countries, pointing out that most victims of the violence are Muslims, who, she said, should demonstrate unity in following the true peaceful message of Islam.

She added that progress in girls’ rights and peace movements is impossible without active support from men, “who are the other half”. Malala thanked her father for his support, which she said has enabled her to speak out against injustice.