WASHINGTON - Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani advocate for girls education, raised the issue of American drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas during a meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House on Friday, saying the campaign kills innocent people.
In a statement, Malala said she also emphasised the need for greater cooperation between the governments of the United States and Pakistan.
After her meeting with Obama, she said, “I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fuelling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people.
“If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”
The White House issued a formal statement, saying that Malala met with the president and First Lady Michelle Obama in the Oval Office where the president signed a proclamation to mark Friday as the International Day of the Girl. The proclamation says in part that “on every continent, there are girls who will go on to change the world in ways we can only imagine, if only we allow them the freedom to dream.”
The statement said that the President and the First Lady ‘welcomed’ Malala and thanked her for her “inspiring and passionate work on behalf of girls education in Pakistan”. Malala said she was ‘honoured’ to meet President Obama, who is a Nobel Peace Prize winner. “The United States joins with the Pakistani people and so many around the world to celebrate Malala’s courage and her determination to promote the right of all girls to attend school and realise their dreams,” it said.
As the First Lady has said, “Investing in girls’ education is the very best thing we can do, not just for our daughters and granddaughters, but for their families, their communities, and their countries.”
The President said in his proclamation to mark Friday as the International Day of the Girl, “Across the globe there are girls who will one day lead nations, if only we afford them the chance to choose their own destinies. And on every continent, there are girls who will go on to change the world in ways we can only imagine, if only we allow them the freedom to dream.”
“We salute Malala’s efforts to help make these dreams come true,” the statement added. Earlier, on Friday she spoke at the World Bank and was scheduled to speak at a book event at the Sidwell Friends School, which the two daughters of Obama attend. Obama’s daughters were also present on Friday when the president received Malala.
At a big gathering of international finance officials and schoolgirls, Malala called on the World Bank to make education its top priority. Seated on a stage with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in a one-on-one presentation in Washington, the 16-year-old Malala delivered a poised, articulate and impassioned plea for children’s education.
Asked by Kim for her advice to the World Bank, Malala noted that organisations spend much of their money on health, AIDS and other programmes.
“But I think all those organisations must make education their top priority,” she said. That focus would fight child labour, child trafficking, poverty and AIDS.
Kim announced the World Bank was donating $200,000 to the Malala Fund, a foundation she has launched to help girls around the world go to school and promote universal access to education.
Malala said that she decided to launch the fund because she needed to do “work on the ground” to promote education, in addition to speaking out about the issues.
Asked by a girl in the audience how she lives a normal teenage life, Malala replied: “I have accepted this busy life for a reason… the education of every child.”
On Thursday she won the European Union’s prestigious Sakharov human rights prize, drawing a fresh murder threat from the Taliban. That same day the World Bank’s Kim called Malala “a powerful symbol of hope” at a news conference as World Bank and International Monetary Fund annual meetings got under way.