By Iftikhar Ali
NEW YORK, April 5 : Top Hollywood star and United Nations Special envoy Angelina Jolie Thursday night honoured Malala Yousafzai, and committed $200,000 to a fund the 15-year-old Pakistani activist has launched to help girls’ education in Pakistan.
In an emotional tribute to Malala, Ms Jolie told the prestigious Women in the World Summit at Lincoln Centre in New York that Malala would be “in charge” of the Malala Fund.
Malala said in a video appearance that the launch was “the happiest moment of my life”, as thunderous applause rang out in the auditorium where women leaders from around the world were present.
The fund’s first grant will provide education to 40 girls in Swat, Malala said. “I invite all of you to support the Malala Fund and let us turn the education of 40 girls into 40 million girls.”
Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban in October in retribution for her advocacy for girls’ education.
She now attends school in Birmingham, England, following her recovery from the shooting and has signed a book deal worth about $3m for her memoir. The book, titled ‘I am Malala’, is scheduled for publication in the autumn.
Jolie recounted the horrific circumstances of Malala’s attack, which the young girl said she had almost been expecting. Malala had nightmares about the possibility, Jolie said, and vowed that if the Taliban attempted to kill her she would “tell them that what they were trying to do was wrong, that education is our basic right.”
During her hospital stay in London, her father told her that a newspaper poll named her the sixth-most-influential person in the world. The seventh was President Barack Obama. When her father asked if that made her feel good, Malala replied, “No. I don’t think human beings should be categorized like this.”
“So we can learn a lot from this girl,” Jolie said with a smile.
“The only thing that mattered to Malala was school,” Jolie told the packed audience
Malala has garnered huge global attention since after she was shot. She was brought to Britain for treatment, including skull reconstruction and cochlear implant surgeries. She was released last month and has started attending school there. She was also shortlisted for Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” in 2012.
After her introduction, Tina Brown, the Newsweek/Daily Beast editor who created the Women in the World summit, told the audience at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater about Jolie’s donation to the fund, which was established by Vital Voices, with a donation from the Women in the World Foundation.
Jolie was not the only Hollywood star on the stage at the conference. Meryl Streep was there to honor another activist, Inez McCormack of Northern Ireland, who died in January of cancer.
The conference continues on Friday, with a speech by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and appearances by Oprah Winfrey, Eva Longoria and Tom Hanks.
The evening began with a dance performance by Michaela DePrince, who grew up as an orphan in war-torn Sierra Leone, where her father was killed and her mother starved to death, as she explained in an accompanying film. She was adopted by an American family and now dances with the Dance Theater of Harlem.
Barbara Walters moderated a panel on Syria, Charlie Rose interviewed South African political activist Mamphela Ramphele, and CNN’s Christiane Amanpour led a panel on “The Next Generation of Malalas,” featuring two other young women fighting for girls’ rights in Pakistan.
Humaira Bachal, founder and president of the Dream Foundation Trust, said women like her are fighting so that all girls have the right to an education, and that what happened to Malala will never happen again.
Filmmaker Sharmeen OBaid Chinoy was asked by moderator Amanpour whether she is able to make her powerful films because she is a woman. She responded, “The very reason I am alive is that there is a certain level of respect people have because I am a woman. When they see a woman who looks them in the eye, sometimes they don’t know how to look at me.”
Khalida Brohi, the 24-year-old founder and director of the Sughar Women Programme, said women like Malala “can only be stopped with a bullet.”
Sughar Women Programme is dedicated to ending tribal violence against women in Pakistan.
Khalida said her father warned her that doing this work would kill her. She responded, “Doing this work will keep me alive,” as the audience greeted her with loud And sustained applause.