Former prime minister Gordon Brown meets two friends of activist schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai as a part of a global day of action promoting education for girls.

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Mr Brown was in Pakistan to meet the two girls who were also injured in the attack on the 15-year-old education campaigner who was shot in the head and neck by the Taliban in October.

Mr Brown, the UN special envoy for global education, has handed a petition to Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, demanding free and compulsory education for all children. The petition has one million signatures from people in Pakistan.

Mr Brown said: "The president of Pakistan has agreed to work with the United Nations to ensure urgent delivery of education for all and to get Pakistan's five million out-of-school children into education for the first time.

"No bombs, bullets, threats or intimidation can deter the international community, working in partnership with Pakistan, to ensure we build the schools, train teachers, provide learning materials, and ensure that there is no discrimination against girls."

Mr Brown has also set the president the target of providing all children with quality education, with teachers, books and classrooms, by 2015. He announced that three million children in poor families in Pakistan will receive cash transfers in return for going to school.

32 million girls

The action comes on a global day labelled as "Malala and the 32 million girls day", which marks a month since Malala was shot in the head by Taliban gunemen as she walked home from school. She is currently recovering at a hospital in Birmingham.

The latest Unesco figures show that 61 million children worldwide are not in school - 32 million of whom are girls - and that Pakistan has the second largest number of girls out of school in the world.

As a part of the day, youth representatives worldwide have been handing the "I am Malala" petition to political representatives from Pakistan. In the UK, Davd Crone, a 17-year-old from Tyne and Wear, has handed the petition in to the Pakistan High Commission in London.

Mr Crone, a UN and Plan UK youth representative, said: "This is a really important cause - all young people are entitled to the same level of education and no young person should be excluded because of threats or their gender.

"If girls are to receive a good level of education they also need the solidarity of men and boys around the world to achieve it."

Recovering

Malala Yousafzai (Reuters)

Malala was attacked after promoting the education of girls and criticising Taliban militants. Doctors at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham have said the bullet which struck the teenager just above her left eye had grazed the edge of her brain.

She has since received thousands of goodwill messages and the public are being encouraged to show their support for this day of action by using social networking sites to post messages.

Yesterday, Malala issued a statement thanking well-wishers worldwide for their support following the shooting (see video, below)

Mr Brown said there was now a real momentum for change in the country. "I believe that in Pakistan, the silent majority is speaking and that there is now a national consensus that the country can delay no longer in ensuring girls and boys have schools to go to and teachers to teach them," he said.

"This has been a breakthrough moment for Pakistan and now we must turn Pakistan's new ambitions and popular determination into delivery on the ground."

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