Courage Finds a Voice: A Conversation with Malala’s Father, Ziauddin Yousafzai
“It is really a miracle, that after the attack, [Malala] restored her health, she restored herself physically, mentally, and spiritually. And now she’s standing on a global stage for the rights of girls and women – especially for the rights of education of girls. I can say that she is the global extension of that very small, local moment we started in Swat Valley, and I’m really feeling proud of her. When she was a child, I was a leader and she was following me. Now she’s the leader and I follow her.” — Ziauddin Yousafzai, Pakistan
The name “Malala” has come to stand for hope and change for girls around the world. When 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai risked her life to go to school in Pakistan’s conflict-ridden Swat Valley in 2012, she captured our hearts and minds, and inspired anyone doing the difficult work of transforming education.
With the theme of “Bravery and Courage” permeating the recent Education Empowered (E2) conference in Redmond, we were honored to host Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who delivered a moving speech to conference attendees, and generously sat down with me to talk about his family’s life-changing journey.
Yousafzai wears many hats these days as an activist and a voice for human rights around the globe. He is the Co-founder and Chairman of the Board for the Malala Fund, and also serves as the United Nations Special Advisor on Global Education and the educational attaché to the Pakistani Consulate in Birmingham, UK. He shares his ideas through TED talks and Twitter, and is frequently profiled in the media. But before he was any of those things, Yousafzai was a teacher.
Starting a small school in 1994 with the equivalent of just $150, Yousafzai was determined to improve lives in his native Pakistan – especially the lives of girls, who were often denied an education by the oppressive Taliban regime.
“In history we have tried many means and many systems and ways to transform society and for change, but most of them have failed or they have brought very heinous and very horrible results to people and nations,” Yousafzai says. “But this educational transformation, it’s very peaceful, sustainable and everlasting. So I thought that if I can invest my time, energy and talent for change, I should choose education.”
The power of education to change the world was not lost on Yousafzai’s daughter, and today she’s using her considerable influence as a Nobel Peace Prize winner to share her father’s lesson with the world. The Malala Fund is the brainchild of Malala herself, initially started on a small scale with prize money she donated to her school. Today, that fund is making it possible for girls to get an education in parts of the world that have traditionally kept them out of the classroom.
As Yousafzai tells us, the fund has three primary objectives: advocacy, work on the ground, and amplifying voices of reform – “finding more Malalas.” As an example of the latter, Yousafzai recalls the overwhelming response to Malala’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, where she invited five other girls to join her on stage.
Ziauddin Yousafzai knows first-hand that educators can change in the world, and he ended our conversation with some sage advice: “Teachers need to sacrifice more, be more inspirational, be role models for students,” he tells us. “There’s a heavy responsibility on them – they are the real change-makers. You can defeat bad ideas with good ideas. That’s where the responsibility of teachers is.”
We were honored to hear this visionary educator’s story, and we’re thrilled to share it with you today on Daily Edventures.