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US bill named after Malala gets bipartisan support

January 28, 2013

US Senate. - File Photo by Reuters

WASHINGTON: A bill named after Malala Yousufzai is getting bipartisan support in the US Senate as key Democratic and Republican lawmakers are backing the proposed measure, sources on Capitol Hill told Dawn. Another bill, moved in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, is also supported by lawmakers from both parties, the sources added.

The bill moved in the house seeks to award a Congressional Gold Medal to Malala, “in recognition of her devoted service to education, justice, and equality in Pakistan.”

The bill moved in the Senate last week, is designed to expand scholarship opportunities for disadvantaged young women in Pakistan.

“I am proud to introduce the Malala Yousufzai Scholarship Act alongside Senator Barbara Boxer and to dedicate it to Malala and the millions of other girls and women who risk their lives every day to gain an education,” said Senator Mary Landrieu.

“Malala Yousufzai bravely advocated for the education of women and girls, something that should be a basic human right,” said Senator Boxer. “This bill not only recognises Malala’s incredible courage, but will ensure that more young women in Pakistan are able to pursue their dreams through higher education.”

The bill noted that 15-year old Malala had been an outspoken advocate for girls’ education in Pakistan and who gained international attention for her blog documenting the Taliban’s crackdown on the rights of women and girls.

“The attack on Malala reminds us of the difficult obstacles women and girls face around the world every day, including poverty, low social standing and violence, in their quest to espouse the basic freedoms enjoyed by American women,” said Senator Landrieu.

“Providing an education is absolutely critical for the future of every girl and society as a whole. When women and men have equal access to educational resources, economies flourish, families strengthen and societies move forward. By lifting up the rights of women internationally, we can strengthen women’s rights here at home, too.”

The Malala Yousufzai Scholarship Act would expand and enhance an existing United States Agency for International Development scholarship programme called the Merit and Needs-Based Scholarship Programme. The programme awards scholarships for university study in agriculture or business administration to economically disadvantaged young men and women from rural areas of Pakistan. To date, of the 1,807 scholarships awarded, only 25 per cent of the recipients have been women.

The Boxer-Landrieu bill would require a 30 per cent increase in the number of scholarships awarded under the programme for the next four years, and that these additional scholarships be awarded solely to women.