New York, 11 April, 2017
At a huge gathering at UN headquarters Pakistan’s Ambassador Dr. Maleeha Lodhi said that by their courage and resilience the people of Pakistan have beaten back and prevailed over the dark forces of intolerance, which seek to impose their views through violence.
Welcoming Malala Yousafzai at a reception hosted by Pakistan’s Mission to the UN in her honour, she said, “Just like Malala did, our people will always reject those who challenge the vision of Pakistan set out by our founding fathers: of a modern, tolerant and progressive Muslim country”.
In her remarks, Malala Yusufzai made an impassioned plea for education in Pakistan and beyond. She called herself a ‘proud Pakistani’ and a ‘proud Muslim’ and said that she was obliged to raise her voice against the misrepresentation and misperception of her country and her faith.
She said that Pakistan is now uniting against extremist forces and showing that people in Pakistan believe in peace and education and girls in Pakistan believe in their right to go to school. “There is still a lot more to be done in providing education to girls in Pakistan as indeed in many other countries as well”, she added.
Addressing a large number of Ambassadors, diplomats and top UN officials present at the occasion, Malala expressed the hope that while representing their own countries they also speak out for human rights and for education which was a human right.
Malala said that the honour she received today from the UN Secretary General who designated her as a UN Messenger of Peace, was also given to Pakistan as well. “I am here to represent my country, Pakistan”, she added.
Praising Malala on her appointment as the youngest UN ‘Messenger of Peace’, Ambassador Lodhi said that this was an acknowledgement of the fact that she is an inspiration for young people all over the world and will, in her new role, continue to be a role model and a shining light for global efforts for peace and amity.
Calling Malala, “an icon of courage and resistance”, Ambassador Lodhi said that she ‘epitomizes the courage and resilience’ of the people of Pakistan who have long defied the odds to overcome the challenges that have confronted the country.
“These are the defining traits of the Pakistani people who by their commitment and courage are determined to defeat the dark forces of intolerance”, she added.
The Pakistani envoy also highlighted Malala’s role in promoting girls’ education saying that one of the reasons why Pakistan’s Nobel prize winner has had such a profound impact on the global conversation about education is that she has exposed the moral crisis of girls’ education for what it is in many countries: “a bullet in the head”.
“She took that bullet as a symbol of the absolutely non-negotiable and urgent need to make education an innate part of growing up for every girl, in every place and for all times”, she remarked.
Girl’s education should be a priority, not least because this is the surest way to women’s empowerment, Ambassador Lodhi said and added, “None of us, after all can move forward if half of us are held back”.
In paying tribute to Ambassador Lodhi, Malala called her a role model for women all over the world, not just in Pakistan. “ Ambassador Lodhi is an inspiring woman who has gone forward with every opportunity and not placed any limit in her way’, she added.
Earlier, UNSG Antonio Guterres in an impressive ceremony at the UN designated Malala as a Messenger of Peace saying that she was a symbol of generosity he had seen in the people of Pakistan who had for decades hosted millions of refugees by opening their borders and hearts.