Oxford University graduate and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousufzai recently appeared in an interview with former Bollywood actor, Twinkle Khanna which was part of a virtual Tweak India Summit that was organised to mark the actor-turned-author’s initiatives’ first anniversary.
The summit, which took place over one day, featured women from various fields including Vidya Balan, Tahira Kashyap, Chetna Singh Gala, Sudha Murty, Revathi Roy among others. Malala Yousufzai too was included in the list. Malala Yousufzai has taken upon herself a number of roles including an activist, student, and manages her own organisation, the Malala Fund. At the one-day summit, she took the opportunity to share her empowering story and discussed the things and people that kept her motivated, irrespective of the threats and criticism she received.
Malala Yousufzai touched on her celebrity status and how she copes with the popularity. “I was never a celebrity so I never took my fame like celebrities do. If someone appreciates me I’m grateful, and if someone wants to take a picture with me, I’m like, ‘why not?’” she said. She went back in time to recall her journey and spoke about how the Taliban had announced a blanket ban on girls and women going to schools when she was just 11-years-old. “It was announced on the FM radio by the Taliban spokesperson that from January 15, 2009, no girl could go to school.”
She then reiterated how for a woman, to be deprived of education meant that she’d be vulnerable to early marriage, sexual abuse, domestic violence and becoming a mother when she herself was a child. “It means her dreams would be taken away from her and that was the worst life I could imagine.” She then noted how that was the day she decided to start speaking out on women’s education and empowerment.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner also recalled the time she’d write blogs for BBC anonymously in order to highlight the situation, and was asked why she would take that risk despite the death threats. “I never thought that I was taking a risk because we were already living in a risk, in a conflict. Every night I’d sleep in the fear of the Taliban, because they could just knock on your door and kill anyone,” she asserted.
Twinkle Khanna, a little shocked to say the least, questioned who guided her during that time since she was only a mere age of 11. “So there must’ve been someone in your life who guided you towards that space,” she asked. “My father was my inspiration,” responded Malala. She continued, “He had five sisters and none of them could go to school. So he believed that education is empowerment for women. Like a feminist man in action, he would always pay full attention to what I said. He would tell all the elders to keep quiet when a child is speaking, instead of the other way around,” Malala recalled.
Further, the activist emphasises on how the role of men was crucial when it came to female empowerment. “The role of men is crucial for female empowerment, because that’s where the problem lies,” quipped Malala. “And he’s been making sure he proves that if you give a woman education, you not only help her but her whole community.” She also spoke on the challenges she faced for being popular at such a young age.
“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.” She was then asked whether world leaders were intimidated by her, to which she responded, “I’m not sure about that, but all I know is when I go meet them, I need to highlight the issues that girls are facing around the globe. And that has been challenging because some leaders are not willing to meet you because of how you may challenge them.”
And of course, Malala Yousufzai was also asked about the day she became the Nobel Peace Prize laureate. She hinted at her dedication to her own cause by pointing out how she was in school when she found out about her achievement, but refused to leave without finishing her lectures.
“My school’s deputy principal just walked into our class during my Chemistry lesson and took me out. I was worried. But she gave me the news and I was like, ‘Thankyou!’ Then she called an assembly and I gave a speech. But then I went back to my Physics class, I said I have to finish my school day and after school we did a press conference.”