“For a woman, not being able to get education means she is vulnerable to early marriage, sexual abuse or domestic violence or becoming a mother when she herself is a teen, and her dreams are taken away from her. For me, it was the worst I could imagine,” says Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, adding “that’s why I started speaking out”.
Malala, who recently graduated from Oxford University, was in conversation with actor Twinkle Khanna as part of a virtual Tweak India Summit that was organised to mark Tweak India’s — the actor-turned-author’s initiative — first anniversary today.
“My father was my inspiration. He had five sisters and none of them could go to school. So he believed that education is empowerment for women. When elderly people were talking in a family, usually nobody would listen to a child. But he would pay full attention, and tell everybody to keep quiet if a child would be speaking. The role of men is crucial because that’s where the problem lies,” she said on her father Ziauddin Yousafzai, while highlighting the importance of education for girls.
Malala, however, added: “Becoming well-known at a young age was challenging. I really did not have anyone to guide me, so I had to learn everything myself. I was not a TV celebrity or actor. So, even the fame and support I was getting was quite different.”
Recollecting her journey, the 23-year-old recalled how Taliban had announced a blanket ban on girls and women going to schools, when she was all of 11, in January 2009. “It was announced on the FM radio by the Taliban spokesperson that from January 15, 2009, no girl could go to school. It was a shut down on schools because they didn’t believe in the rights of women. They did not believe in the education of girls. We were living in conflict. Every night when we were sleeping, we were sleeping in fear because the Taliban could knock your door and kill anyone. That’s what they were doing there. If we didn’t speak, nothing was going to change. And we would have been living in that situation forever,” she said, adding that she doesn’t remember anything from the day of the attack, which left Twinkle teary-eyed.
The one-day summit features women from various fields including Vidya Balan, Tahira Kashyap, Chetna Singh Gala, Sudha Murty, Revathi Roy among others.
Malala, who juggles multiple roles of a student, global leader, and managing her organization Malala Fund, shared how time management is “difficult”. “It’s hard. It is very difficult. I am clearing a few things. When I am in school, there is no travel or anything else. As soon as I get a break, I start travelling — whether going to G7 or G20, or going to Ethiopia, Nigeria, Lebanon or Kenya to highlight the issues girls are facing, listening to their stories and meeting them,” she asserted.
So does Malala let her hair down? “For me, fun means spending time with friends, whether going to a restaurant and having lunch or going for a movie. Also, there are a lot of societies in Oxford. I have played once or twice at the college level cricket club too,” she shared.
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