At the recent Investing in the Future (IIFMENA) conference the challenges and opportunities faced by women in the region were the main topic of discussion, with guest speaker Malala Yousafzai acting as the perfect role model for how we should move forward.

The world’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner and a passionate campaigner for educational and gender rights, Malala Yousafzai’s rousing speech gave us all hope for the future.

The 19 year old, who claims she wants to be the prime minister of Pakistan one day, was just an ordinary schoolgirl when her life changed on October 9, 2012, after two Taliban gunmen boarded her school bus in the Swat Valley region and shot her in the face.

The young Pakistani human rights advocate was being punished for supporting women’s rights to education – the Taliban had banned girls from attending school in her native Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan.

Despite the severity of the attack, it didn’t stop Malala. In fact it spurred her on. She has since written a book, I Am Malala, which is also a documentary, she is a key speaker at events about equality and empowerment and has launched the Malala Fund, a non-profit organisation to empower girls through quality secondary education.

Here’s what the inspiring teen taught us in her time in Dubai

We Must End The War

“On one hand there is poverty, injustice and lack of funding in education that is impacting children and women, and on the other hand there are conflicts and wars making the situation far worse.”

Muslims Need To Unite 

“We cannot talk about investing in the future of this region without calling for an end to bombings and attacks. We need strong unity among Muslim peoples and countries. Islam’s foremost message is one of sisterhood, brotherhood and humanity and it is time that we join hands in this struggle.”

We Must Always Think Of The Innocent People Caught In Conflict 

“We must not forget that the majority of those suffering because of these conflicts and wars are Muslims. I cannot stop thinking of those 500,000 children in Mosul right now under a threat to be used as human shields.


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We Must Empower The Younger Generation  

“Together, we must make a commitment to this generation – to empower them with the education they need to bring peace and prosperity to their countries.”

We Must End Child Marriages 

“I also cannot stop thinking of my sisters in Pakistan and Afghanistan who become victims of early child marriages and lose the opportunity to study further. We need to inspire women to be beyond limits and in order to do that we need women empowerment.”

We Must Empower Young Women

“In grade four, I remember I could only think of women as doctors, teachers or housewives and nothing else. But when I saw women role models, that broadened my vision. I saw Benazir Bhutto, women artists, entrepreneurs – and it allowed me to see the potential of what women can achieve.

“My dream quickly changed from becoming a doctor to becoming the prime minister of Pakistan and fixing all of the issues and bringing education. Right now, my dream is to spread a global movement for girls’ education.”

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