Honourable Irina Bokova, Director General UNESCO,
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am grateful to you, Madam Bokova, and UNESCO for organizing this event on the sidelines of the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
UNESCO has become a symbol for the promotion of education to all around the globe. We support your call, Madam Director General, made to the Human Rights Council this last Friday that we all must recognize the central importance of the right to education for charting inclusive societies free from want and free from fear.
Your call fits so aptly into to the motto of UNESCO: Building peace in the minds of men and women.
We agree with UNESCO that gender-based violence can be prevented through education.
Pakistan has always given priority to education for girls and boys, for men and women.
Because we believe that education is enlightenment.
Education is emancipation.
Education is empowerment.
Education is development.
In education lies the redemption of a nation and the entire international community.
On October 9 last year something horrible happened in Swat, Pakistan.
A girl, Malala, in her early teens, who was known to the entire nation for advocating the right to education, was shot by a man who disagreed with her.
The girl was known to most of the media audiences in Pakistan; the man was not.
This brought into sharp contrast two mindsets:
• One supporting education; the other rejecting it.
• One believing in expressing her views through the media; the other using a gun to silence a voice of reason.
This shocking incident forced us to think if we were doing enough to promote the education of girls and protect their rights.
It reminded the entire world that the right of girls to education remains number one task for all of us.
The attack against Malala – as evil as it was – showed that the forces of darkness are afraid of the education that gives courage to girls as young as Malala to stand for their rights against all odds.
In December last year, the Government of Pakistan joined forces with UNESCO to stand up for Malala, to defend the rights of all girls to education.
At the high level event – Stand up for Malala, Girls Education is a Right – held in Paris - Pakistan and UNESCO launched the Malala Fund for Girls Education. President Asif Ali Zardari announced Pakistan’s donation of US $ 10 million to that fund.
President Zardari, Prime Minister of France Jean Marc Ayrault, former Finland President Halonen and ministers from Afghanistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the United Nations and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) endorsed the Statement of Commitment to Girls’ Rights to Education.
Madam Chairperson,True, in Pakistan we have been fighting a fierce war against terrorism.
True, our government, our parliament, our judiciary and all national institutions are aware that without education for girls and boys, for men and women, we will not have development, we will not have tolerance, we will not full harmony.
True, iqra or read is the first world of the first verse of the Quran revealed to Prophet Mohammad peace be upon him.
Islam is a religion for all men and women, as one integral part of humanity, without discrimination.
Those who deny women and girls their right to education violate Islam. Those who do so violently, violate the right to life and the right to education.
Three years ago, all democratic forces in Pakistan came together to insert, through the 18th Amendment, the following language on the right to education in Article 25 of our Constitution: The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years.
The Benazir Income Support Programme – our social protection programme – has launched a major initiative waseela-e-taleem – or means to education – under which three million girls will go to school.
Women parliamentarians, 22 percent in the National Assembly and 17 percent in the Senate, with the support of all political parties are creating new legislative and administrative space for women’s education.
We have reduced gender disparity in Pakistan. Yet girls still face major obstacles. The net enrollment ratio for girls is still 14 percent behind the ratio for boys. We are trying to rectify this situation.
In many parts of the world, violence is one of the reasons girls are not going to school: violence in school, violence on the way to school, and violence against girls and women in society.
To defend girls’ education as a basic human right, it is necessary to ensure safe school environments, teach respect for women and girls, and develop curricula free of gender-based stereotypes. These are also effective instruments for combating gender-based violence.
Gender-based violence is widely prevalent. Despite a host of measures taken by nations and the international community, the incidence of gender-based violence has not gone down. If fact, it has increased; and women are it primary victims.
We need to address the gender inequality, fed by inequitable social structures, and the root causes of gender-based violence. This is best done by developing effective preventive strategies comprising norm setting, legal and enforcement measures, and general social awareness.
Education is the best tool to prevent violence against women.
First, it creates greater awareness among all citizens about the rights of women, especially their right to education.
Second, women themselves become more conscious of their rights and how to protect them.
Third, education makes communities and nations more productive. The most distinct differential between developed and developed nations is educated women.
Fourth, with women’s education societies tend to become more tolerant.
Fifth, where gender-based violence persists despite education, the recipe is more education.
Sixth, education should not be confined to schools, colleges and universities. Continuing education in government departments, parliaments, and judicial institutions, as well as through the media and civil society, has created new powerful waves to defend women’s rights and deter gender-based violence.
Finally, let us join hands and pool efforts to place a book in the hands of every girl and boy. This, and the President of Pakistan said in Paris last year, will lead to the victory of right over wrong, of light over darkness, of hope over fear.
I thank you.