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Ex-UK PM Brown supports Malala's call for girls' education in Pakistan

By Reza Sayah, CNN
updated 10:30 AM EST, Sat November 10, 2012
  • Ex-UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown delivers girls' education petition Islamabad
  • Brown: The march for the right to girls' education cannot be stopped
  • U.N.: Pakistan spends seven times more on military than on primary education

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Malala Yousefzai now has a day named after her and more than two million people from around the world pledging to carry on her fight for girls' education.

The United Nations has declared November 10 as Malala day to honor the 15 year-old Pakistani activist who was shot in the head one month ago by the Taliban, which wanted to silence her campaign for education.

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown marked the occasion here on Friday by delivering a petition to the Pakistani government with one million signatures calling on Islamabad to enroll every Pakistani boy and girl in primary school.

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Brown: Time to turn slogan into reality

Pakistani civil society organizations matched the U.N.'s signature drive with a petition of their own, signed by 1.2 million Pakistanis supporting Malala's cause.

"The march for the right to girls' education cannot be stopped," Brown told students during a visit to a girls' school in Islamabad. "Indeed it is unstoppable."

In Pakistan, girls' education has long been hampered by widespread poverty, a bias against girls' education by hardline Islamist groups, and what many view as a corrupt government.

Malala: From near death to recovery

According to U.N. figures, 32 million of the world's school-aged girls do not get an education. Roughly 10 percent of those girls -- 3.1 million -- live in Pakistan.

In a country where nearly 50 million Pakistanis can't read or write, two-thirds are women -- the third highest number of illiterate women in the world.

A Population Council report this year said Pakistan spends less public money on education than any other south Asian country.

The U.N. says Pakistan spends seven times more on the military than on primary education.

Despite the statistics, the attack on Malala appears to have brought renewed hope and energy in the campaign to educate Pakistan's girls.

"There's a huge momentum now," Brown said. "People are saying I was silent before but I'm not going to be silent as long as girls are denied an education."

But for now, there's only the promise of help.

The Pakistani government, the U.N., the World Bank, and other international organizations have set an April 2013 deadline to come up with a plan to provide education to all of Pakistan's school-aged children by the end of 2015.

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