UN highlights gender inequality on International Day of the Girl

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Pakistani students pray for child education activist Malala Yousafzai in celebration of Malala winning the Nobel Peace Prize, at a girls school in Malala's hometown Mingora in northwestern Swat valley on October 11, 2014.  Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai, who became the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, made the high-level peacemaking move of inviting the prime ministers of oft-warring India and Pakistan to the ceremony in Oslo in December after sharing the award with India's Kailash Satyarthi for championing children's rights.   AFP PHOTO/ A MAJEED        (Photo credit should read A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistani students pray for child education activist Malala Yousafzai in celebration of Malala winning the Nobel Peace Prize on October 11, 2014. The UN spotlighted the problem of violence against women around the world during its third International Day of the Girl on Saturday. Credit: A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images

World leaders and the United Nations spotlighted the problem of violence against women around the world during the U.N.’s third International Day of the Girl on Saturday.

“Gender-based violence — from domestic violence and human trafficking to genital cutting and early and forced marriage — condemns girls to cycles of dependence, fear, and abuse,” President Barack Obama said in a statement Friday.

“On International Day of the Girl, we stand with girls, women, and male and female advocates in every country who are calling for freedom and justice, and we renew our commitment to build a world where all girls feel safe, supported, and encouraged to pursue their own measure of happiness,” Obama said.

The day was designated: “Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence.”

On Oct. 10, girls’ education rights activist, Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan received a joint 2014 Nobel Peace Prize with India’s Kailash Satyarthi. At 17, Yousafzai is the youngest Nobel laureate.

“As a recipient of one of the world’s highest honors, Malala’s resilience and courage challenge us all to support the struggle against brutality, ignorance, and violence,” said Secretary of State John Kerry in a statement for the International Day of the Girl. “She inspires hope in millions of people and embodies our commitment to human rights and education.”

Yousafzai first gained notoriety  in 2012 after Taliban members shot her in the head on her way to school on Oct. 9. Yousafzai was taken to a hospital in Birmingham, England, after the bullet was removed from her head by surgeons in Pakistan. She was released from the hospital in February 2013.

Here is a look back at Yousafzai’s work and some of the controversy it has sparked, as reported by PBS NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan:

Through the Malala Fund, which Yousafzai co-founded with her father, a poet and Pakistani school director, her work has had global reach and supported projects in Yousafzai’s home country of Pakistan, as well as in Jordan, Kenya and Nigeria.

“As my father always says, he did not give me something extra,” said Yousafzai speaking at a press conference in Birmingham, England on Friday. “What he did was that he did not clip my wings. So I’m thankful to my father for not clipping my wings, for letting me to fly and achieve my goals, for showing to the world that a girl is not supposed to be the slave.”

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