SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

NEW YORK - A fund set up by Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani education activist, plans to send 40 girls to school in Swat, her home region, with the support of top Hollywood star Angelina Jolie.

Malala, 15, was shot in the head by the Taliban in October in Swat, announced the initiative in a video message from England on Thursday night to the Women in the World Conference in New York. Her appearance on the screen evoked big applause from women leaders jampacking an auditorium at Lincoln Centre.

She said that Jolie, who is also a United Nations envoy, and two women’s charities had helped raise $45,000 for the Malala Fund - an amount which would send 40 girls aged between five and 12 to school in Swat Valley.

Jolie, who introduced Malala, pledged at the star-studded conference focusing on women across the globe, to give the fund a further $200,000. Malala now attends school in Birmingham, England, following her recovery from the shooting and has signed a book deal worth about $3m for her memoir. The book, titled ‘I am Malala’, is scheduled for publication in the autumn.

Jolie recounted the horrific circumstances of Malala’s attack, which the young girl said she had almost been expecting. Malala had nightmares about the possibility, Jolie said, and vowed that if the Taliban attempted to kill her she would “tell them that what they were trying to do was wrong, that education is our basic right.” During her hospital stay in London, her father told her that a newspaper poll named her the sixth-most-influential person in the world. The seventh was President Barack Obama. When her father asked if that made her feel good, Malala replied, “No. I don’t think human beings should be categorized like this.” “So we can learn a lot from this girl,” Jolie said with a smile. The only thing that mattered to Malala was school,” Jolie told the packed audience.

Malala has garnered huge global attention since after she was shot. She was brought to Britain for treatment, including skull reconstruction and cochlear implant surgeries. She was released last month and has started attending school there. She was also shortlisted for Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” in 2012. After her introduction, Tina Brown, the Newsweek/Daily Beast editor who created the Women in the World summit, told the audience at Lincoln Center’s David H Koch Theater about Jolie’s donation to the fund, which was established by Vital Voices, with a donation from the Women in the World Foundation. Jolie was not the only Hollywood star on the stage at the conference. Meryl Streep was there to honour another activist, Inez McCormack of Northern Ireland, who died in January of cancer.

The conference continues on Friday, with a speech by former 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, as she explained in an accompanying film. She was adopted by an American family and now dances with the Dance Theater of Harlem.