Angelina Jolie paid glowing tribute to the Pakistani teenager who was shot by the Taliban for advocating for girls’ education, introducing Malala Yousafzai to the Women in the World summit via a new video from Britain.
“Today I’m going to announce the happiest moment of my life,” the 15-year-old said, at one point shyly covering her face with her hands. She said a new school in Pakistan would be built for 40 girls. “Let us turn the education of 40 girls into 40 million girls,” she said.
Jolie committed $200,000 to the new “Malala’s Fund” for girls’ education in Pakistan.
Malala was already known for her activism when she was shot in the head in October by Taliban attackers angered by her outspokenness in a deeply conservative society.
She was brought to Britain for treatment, including skull reconstruction. She was released last month and has started attending school there. She was shortlisted for Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” in 2012 and recently signed a deal to write her memoir.
“Here’s what they accomplished,” Jolie said of Malala’s attackers. “They shot her point-blank range in the head - and made her stronger. The brutal attempt to silence her voice made it stronger.”
Jolie, a special envoy for the U.N. refugee agency, said Malala’s father had shown his daughter in the hospital a poll that said she was the sixth most influential person in the world, and that President Barack Obama was seventh. But the teen said she didn’t think people should be categorized like that.
“So we can learn a lot from this girl,” Jolie said with a grin.
Jolie was not the only Hollywood star on the stage at the conference. Meryl Streep was there to honor another activist, Inez McCormack of Northern Ireland, who died in January of cancer. At the first Women in the World summit three years ago, Streep had played McCormack in a short play, called “Seven,” with McCormack watching from the audience.
The conference continues on Friday, with a speech by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and appearances by Oprah Winfrey, Eva Longoria and Tom Hanks.
The evening began with a dance performance by Michaela DePrince, who grew up as an orphan in war-torn Sierra Leone, where her father was killed and her mother starved to death. She was adopted by a U.S. family and now dances with the Dance Theater of Harlem.
Angelina Jolie pledges $200,000 for girls’ education in Pakistan