Birmingham & Black Country

Malala Yousafzai: Women's groups hold Birmingham vigil

Two women's groups have staged a vigil in Birmingham for Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who was shot after campaigning for girls' education.

The 14-year-old is being treated at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QE) after being shot by the Taliban in the Swat Valley on 9 October.

Amina Women's Group and Women2Gether said: "Brave Malala said what many of us wish to say but we are too afraid."

Malala "spoke out" where fundamentalism was silencing women, they added.

A statement from the groups, which was read out during the vigil in Victoria Square, added: "A girl of 14 spoke out for the rights of women and girls in a region where fundamentalism is fighting to take hold.

'No to fundamentalism'

"For this she was shot in the head.

"Like so many around the world, we are moved and inspired by her bravery and wish her and her friends a speedy recovery."

Image caption Malala Yousafzai is a well-known education campaigner in Pakistan

The women from the two groups held placards saying "I am Malala", suggesting she spoke for all women.

They also held a placard which said: "We say no to fundamentalism. We say no to imperialism. Both deny women their freedoms."

The Pakistani Taliban said it had shot the schoolgirl for "promoting secularism".

Sumaira Rashid said she had joined the protest to "support" Malala and the work she was achieving.

"What's happened is really, really sad," she said.

"Her blog had a very good message and it was also for parents who were scared to let their children go to school. It's a message for everybody."

Ms Rashid, who is originally from Pakistan, said she was educated in the capital Islamabad, but the situation in some rural parts of northern Pakistan was getting worse with women's "education and rights" under threat.

Kalpana, a 58-year-old NHS worker who did not give her surname, said she was at the vigil because she had been educated and felt it was vital women around the world had the same opportunities.

"Education for women is important to improve the health of mothers and children and it's more helpful for the whole society and community," she said.

Image caption A statement was read out to media at the vigil

Kalpana is a member of the Women2Gether group, which meets to discuss issues affecting women.

Malala first gained attention aged 11, when she wrote a diary for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban.

Using the pen-name Gul Makai, she wrote about suffering caused by militants who had taken control of the Swat Valley in 2007 and ordered girls' schools to close.

A bullet in Malala's skull was removed during surgery in Peshawar and she was later transferred to the QE, which has a major trauma centre specialising in gunshot wounds and head injuries.

The teenager is in a stable condition at the hospital, which has received gifts and hundreds of goodwill messages for her.

Meanwhile, pupils from King Edward VI, a girls' school in Handsworth, are writing letters of support to Malala.

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