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Malala Yousafzai

Volume 757: debated on Wednesday 10 December 2014

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to recognise the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai for her contribution to girls’ education nationally and internationally.

My Lords, on behalf of the UK Government I would like to congratulate Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi on sharing the Nobel Peace Prize today. Both have achieved a great deal. Malala is a truly remarkable young woman who has done much for girls’ and boys’ education globally and specifically within Pakistan. My right honourable friends the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have publicly recognised her achievements, including the award presented today.

I thank my noble friend for her Answer. However, when Malala addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations she stated:

“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world”.

We have so often failed to recognise the dedication and risks that teachers take in some circumstances, as Malala’s teachers did. As DfID funds so much girls’ education in Pakistan, could Her Majesty’s Government consider creating some kind of scholarship for professional development, or award, in honour of this Nobel Peace Prize, to honour those teachers?

My noble friend is right to highlight the contributions that good teachers make. We all know that, and DfID is indeed committing significant resources to education in Pakistan. Probably the most important thing is to sustain that commitment, both in terms of trying to get girls into school and also good teachers into those classrooms for all of those children.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, as I tried—and failed—to get this as a Topical Question when the award was first announced. Her timing is superb, as we know, because Malala received her award this morning. Perhaps the best way that we can recognise Malala’s astounding achievement, as a very courageous young woman with a wise head on her shoulders, is to invite her to address both Houses of Parliament. There is an honourable precedent for this: we have had previous Nobel Prize winners. Although the Nobel Peace Prize has had a somewhat chequered history, on this occasion they have got it absolutely right. She is a superb role model for young women and girls in this country, in a situation where many women, unfortunately, are being enticed to sacrifice their lives in rather foolish missions to become jihadist brides. She is a wonderful example. We could invite the UK Youth Parliament as well. I welcome the Minister’s response.

I heard Malala at the Girl Summit in July, and she was superb. She had a fantastic grasp of the importance of education for women and girls. I point out that she is in her GCSE year. We need to ensure that she is not deflected too much, for her own future, from her own exams and studying.

My Lords, as has been mentioned around the Chamber, Malala has inspired many young people and young women around the world. She also expressed her concerns last year to President Obama. She said 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”.

Do Her Majesty’s Government support what Malala has said? What are we doing to honour what she has said: to ensure that education is at the forefront, rather than conflict?

My noble friend will know that we put a great deal of stress on working in fragile and conflict-affected states. We fully recognise that development should be a driver towards peace and stability, which is one of the major reasons why we invest what we do in education.

My Lords, I was privileged to show Malala and her family around the Palace of Westminster and to talk with her about Pakistan. She is the most amazing young woman. Could the Minister confirm—maybe she cannot say in detail what is happening; if she cannot say it on the Floor of the House, maybe she would write—that we are ensuring that Malala is protected? She has been shot once; she is in an area of this country where we know that there are jihadists. I would like to know that our nation is looking after this amazing woman.

My Lords, what is being done to teach the teachers? The problem in Pakistan is that the teaching available beyond schooling is imperfect, to say the least, as far as women are concerned. Would it be possible to offer scholarships for some of those bright women to train as teachers in this country?

Again, the noble Baroness is well aware of the significance of this. We are putting a great deal of effort into teaching the teachers. For example, in Pakistan we are training 90,000 teachers a year in Punjab and 16,000 in KP. She will see the scale of that, but it is extremely important that the training we offer is high quality.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that tackling the barriers that women and girls face, not least to education, has to involve an urgent need to tackle the negative effects on their life chances of cultural attitudes, social norms, domestic duties, early marriage and pregnancy? Surely those elements dictate that access to education is made impossible.

My Lords, what steps does my noble friend think the United Nations can take to convince the people of Pakistan that the deprivation of women and girls’ education is costing their state and public enormous economic potential? Will that be something that she could draw to the attention of the Government of Pakistan?

Many people in the Government of Pakistan are aware of that and there is an encouraging increase in the number of girls as well as boys in school.

My Lords, obviously education is key to women’s rights. The issue that we heard about last week was the London conference on Afghanistan. Can the Minister update the House on the outcomes of that conference, particularly for girls’ education and women’s rights?

There was a major emphasis on girls’ education and women’s rights and I participated in many events to do with that. I was very impressed by what the wife of the President said about the need to shape their own future, otherwise others will do so.