Pakistan's Zardari pledges cash for girls' education

PARIS Mon Dec 10, 2012 11:29pm IST

Pakistan's President Asif Zardari meets with schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai (C) during his visit to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, central England December 8, 2012. REUTERS/Queen Elizabeth Hospital/Handout

Pakistan's President Asif Zardari meets with schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai (C) during his visit to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, central England December 8, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Queen Elizabeth Hospital/Handout

PARIS (Reuters) - Pakistan's President Asif Zardari pledged $10 million for girls' education to UNESCO on Monday in the name of a Pakistani schoolgirl shot by the Taliban, saying sending girls to school was the best way to combat extremism.

The October attack on Malala Yousufzai sparked worldwide condemnation of Taliban efforts to deprive girls of education in Pakistan, which has seen a surge in Islamist militancy over the past decade.

At a "Stand Up For Malala" advocacy event at the Paris headquarters of the United Nations' cultural arm, Zardari said he was "deeply moved" to have met the teenager during a visit on Saturday to the British hospital where she is recovering.

He reported her progress as "satisfactory".

"I have no doubt that our resolve to provide education to all, in particular to the millions of schoolgirls, is the best strategy to defeat the forces of violence," said Zardari, who wore a button of Yousufzai's face on his lapel.

He gave no further details about the education fund, nor say where the money would come from.

Yousufzai had campaigned for girls' education for years in the Swat valley, northwest of Pakistan's capital of Islamabad, before being shot at close range while leaving school.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt, calling her efforts pro-Western.

Some 61 million primary school-age children around the world do not attend school and two-thirds are girls, UNESCO said.

In Pakistan, nearly half of females from rural areas do not attend school, it said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the UNESCO gathering that an education would mean girls were less likely to become child brides and could better contribute to their families' livelihoods.

"Closing the education gap is a powerful prescription for economic growth. But all over the world girls still face enormous obstacles to getting an education," Clinton said in a video message to the gathering.

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