Malala Yousafzai Continues To Push For Equality And Justice
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Nearly two years ago, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a Taliban extremist in her home at Pakistan's Swat Valley. It was retribution for her outspokenness about the importance of girls' education. Since then, against all odds, Malala has made a miraculous recovery, and she's become a global icon. She recently turned 17 years old, and she made public her birthday wish. It's to bring back hundreds of schoolgirls abducted by an Islamic militants three months ago. She's in Nigeria this week to put pressure on the government. Here's a clip of her speaking to the BBC.
(SOUNDBITE OF BBC INTERVIEW)
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: When I met the parents, they all were clearly. And there was - they were asking the government - they were asking their president that they should bring back our girls. So it's a message of everyone here in Nigeria that the girls should be freed as soon as possible because those girls have the right to get education, and they are human beings. They deserve the right to be - not to be forced and not to be kidnapped. They deserve to be free, and they deserve to be treated with equality and justice.
MARTIN: We thought this would be a good time to hear again from this remarkable young woman by revisiting a conversation I had with Malala and her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai. They were on a visit to Washington last October. She started by telling me what she admired most about her father.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: He's a great father. And I am inspired by him because the work he was doing at that time, when terrorism was spreading in Swat - it was really hard to speak at that time, and my father did. And I got inspired by him. And that's why I said that I would also speak up for my rights, and I'll also speak up for the rights for every girl to get education and to go to school.
MARTIN: Ziauddin, what do you most admire about Malala?
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: It's a difficult question. (Laughing) Thank you, but...
MARTIN: That's my job.
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: I think Malala is an average girl, but there are something...
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: ...Which is extraordinary about her. She never agrees with me. And one special quality which she has - that she doesn't commit a mistake again. So she doesn't repeat her mistakes. And she's very respectful to her teachers, to her elders, and she is a good girl. I love her.
MARTIN: Aw. So glad to hear.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Thank you.
MARTIN: I do want to ask you, Ziauddin, what - it does start with you. You ran a girl's school that, Malala, you attended. And I have to ask what gave you this passion for girls' education. Because I think that it's one thing when you are the person who is on the bottom to want to rise. But it's another when you are on the top and to want to share the privileges that you had as a man and as the head of a household. So where did you get your passion for girls' education?
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: Basically, I was born in a society where girls are ignored. Right from the very beginning, I was very sensitive to this kind of discrimination. And I think that this simple biological difference between the men and women should not be the best of the political and social discrimination.
I'm asked often that - what special training have you given to your daughter? So I usually tell people, you should not ask me what I have done. Rather, you ask me what I did not do, which is usually done by parents. I did not clip her wings to fly. I did not stop her from flying. And I always give a message to the parents all around the world, where girls are suffering, that - trust your daughters. They are faithful. Honor your daughters. They are honorable. And educate your daughters. They are amazing.
MARTIN: Malala, one of the things that I have heard you say, which has not gotten a lot of attention - in fact, you said this at the United Nations when you spoke there - is that you are not just fighting for the rights of the girls to get education. You are also fighting for the rights of boys to get education, including the children of the terrorists. And I'd like to ask you to tell us more about that. Why do you feel that way?
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: There has been a discrimination in our society, and men have been doing this for centuries. But this time, we women are going to bring change. We are speaking up for girls' rights, but we must not behave like men.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: We must not behave like they have done in the past. We must believe in equality, and we must take each decision with justice. But we also speak about boys' rights because in many countries, they cannot go to school because of child labor. Their only job is to earn. So I think we also need to speak up for them.
MARTIN: Ziauddin, one of the other things that I'm not sure that everyone fully understands is that your family was under threat for a very long time. This is not something that happened in a day or a week. It was really years that you feared for your safety and for your family's safety. That you were being threatened for a very, very long time. And I think a lot of people would be interested to know how you sustained yourself through that period? How did you keep going?
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: Yes, of course. I was in Taliban's radar for the last three - four years, I can say. This was not only me because hundreds of opinion leaders, hundreds of elders - they were being assassinated. And I was one of them. And I took care in my own way, but I didn't have any security. But one has to live. I mean, there is no option. When she was targeted just 10 months before - when she got fame that very year in 2012 - they issued a warning that, as - she is speaking against us, and we will not tolerate it. But we thought that even terrorists might have some ethics because they destroyed some 1,500 schools, but they never injured a child. And she was a child.
MARTIN: Malala, do you mind if I ask, do you think you're making a difference?
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: When I look at the response of people - when I look at the love and the support of people - then I think, a day will come that we will see every child to go to school. Most of the time, I'm related to the Taliban, but I want education. And when I talk about education, there are many issues, as well. Children are suffering from child labor. They have to earn for their family. They're being used for earning money by some robbers. So there are many difficulties for children to go to school - not only terrorism.
MARTIN: Forgive me for making a joke, but speaking of child labor - you're working very hard these days.
MARTIN: I mean, I understand they have you going from, like, pillar to post and from place to place. You've been on quite a tour. Are you having any fun at all?
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: It's a very nice question.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Well, I miss those days, but - (laughing).
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Dad is fine. Dad is quite good. First thing is that outside of my home, I look like a very obedient, a very serious, a very good kind of girl. But nobody knows what happens inside the house. So inside the house, I was quite, well - it does not mean that I was naughty. My brothers used to fight with me, and then I had to give them a response.
MARTIN: Well, of course. I mean, of course.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: But that's why it's good to fight with your brothers, and it's good to tease them, to give them advices. And my little brother - he's nine years old - and I fight with him because I'm thinking about his future.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: He wants - I bet he wants iPod. He wants to play games, and I think that is not good for his future. And in response, he cries, and he shouts to me. And he says, you can forgive the Taliban, but you are not forgiving me.
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: What he did say to you? Why are you so famous, he said?
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: They also don't know what I do. We both were sitting on a table, and we were having breakfast. And he said, Malala. I said yes. I can't understand why people are giving you prizes. And everywhere you go people say, like, this is Malala, and they give you award. What have you done? So he still needs to understand.
MARTIN: You're just my annoying sister. Do you want to go back home?
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Yes, of course, because how can one forget his home? And I love Pakistan, and I miss Pakistan. And I'm hopeful that I will go back to Pakistan as soon as possible, but first I need to empower myself with knowledge, with education. I need to work hard. And when I am powerful, then I'll go back to Pakistan, Inshallah.
MARTIN: Do you think that might be possible? Do you want to go home, too? Do you think you will be able to?
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: It's a difficult question. These days are, I think, quite dangerous for me, as well as for her. So we will go back. I'm needed in Pakistan. I am needed in Afghanistan. I am needed in Swat. I should contribute to girls' education, to boys' education. And I believe that one should live for a cause which is greater than him. Even if I die, I will continue my campaign, but I will not put her life at stake. That's clear.
MARTIN: The Taliban say, they would still like to kill her. They would still like to target her.
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: She'll answer it.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: I have already seen death, and I know that death is supporting me in my cause of education. Death does not want to kill me. Before this attack, I might have been a little bit afraid how death would be. Now I'm not because I have experienced it. So they cannot make me stop to continue my campaign.
MARTIN: Ziauddin, do you have hope that groups like the Taliban can be brought into dialogue with people? That their reign of terror will end?
ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI: Yes. I have hope. And to speak honestly, it needs a political will. We must put pressure on all governments. I should put pressure on my government and my state. You should put pressure on your state - that why a huge amount of the tax pay is spent on arms and ammunitions? Why? And that was what she said. I will quote my daughter - she should quote me by the way, but I will quote her - that send pens, not guns. Send books, not tanks. And the most beautiful thing - send teachers, not soldiers. Thank you.
MARTIN: I spoke with Malala and Ziauddin Yousafzai in front of an audience when they visited Washington, D.C., in October last year.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.