Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize laureate and activist for female education, graced those who came to listen to her speak at the San Jose Event Center on June 26, 2015 with her maturity and deep wisdom.
Upon entering the auditorium, photos of Malala on a large projection screen were accompanied by inspiring quotes said by her.
Before Malala came to the stage, award-winning author of “The Kite Runner” and moderator for the evening, Khaled Hosseini, gave her an impressive introduction and also presented the trailer to an upcoming documentary about Malala that will be released in 2016 named, “He Named Me Malala: One Child, One Teacher, One Book and One Pen Can Change the World.”
The audience immediately stood after the trailer was shown, and vigorously cheered and clapped in anticipation to see Malala enter the stage. As Malala appeared on the stage, she was humbled by the warm reception from the audience and waved to the crowd. Once the applause subsided, Malala thanked the audience for their love and support, not only for her, but for her mission: to provide a quality education to young girls and women in Pakistan and around the world.
Malala then said a prayer thanking God before commencing the conversation with Mr. Hosseini.
Malala went on to answer questions about her life as a child in Swat Valley, her campaign for education, the violence and discrimination present in Pakistani society, the basic rights of women, and the importance of education.
It was evident in her conversation with Hosseini that she is very close with her father Zia who also believes in the power of education. When her father was once asked what he did in order to help shape Malala into the young woman she is today, he stated, “Don’t ask me what I did but ask me what I did not do…and that is, I did not clip her wings”. As Malala stated, her father always gave her the freedom to develop into her own person and follow her passion. She went on to explain that her father built a school in her hometown of Swat Valley so that kids could get a proper education. He even admitted 150 children who could not afford to pay for their tuition because he believes that education is every child’s right. And even though other parents of means who had their children enrolled in the school did not like the fact that their children would be among those of lower status, Malala’s father refused to remove the underprivileged children from his school, even though he would be losing payment for tuition from the parents who could afford to pay.
Malala continued to discuss how her mother also values education. She sold her wedding jewelry to help Malala’s father pay for the construction of the school. Malala went on to explain how, when her mother was a young girl, she was never encouraged to acquire an education. She was always told that she did not need one because her duty was to get married and have children. In spite of that reality, Malala’s mother now attends a learning center because she wants to receive the education that she could not acquire as a young woman.
Malala proceeded to explain how there has been this perpetual fear in her country that, if women receive an education, they would be out of the men’s control. It has been long standing that it was against Islam culture to educate women because of that fact. However, Malala went on to state that that went against the Koran and its teachings, because the first word that appears in the Holy scriptures is “read”. So, even though education is important in their religion, it was not acceptable in their culture because of extreme patriarchic ideals.
Malala continued to discuss how the Taliban destroyed 400 schools in 2009, and anyone who tried to receive an education in private or spoke out against women’s right to education, would either be killed or flogged for speaking out. Malala explained that her professional aspiration was to become a doctor, and she cried on the day when she could no longer go to school because she felt that her dream was taken away.
In 2009, the situation in her country became so dire that she and her family—and many others in her hometown—became IDPs: Internally Displaced Persons. Even though they were refugees in their own country, she still managed to find a way to go to school. She walked 30 minutes back and forth everyday attending a secret school.
When asked about how she became so involved in speaking out about the right of education for women, Malala stated that she has been an advocate for education since the age of 10. Since her father managed the school he built, his influence about the importance of education was passed onto Malala. When she was 11 years of age, Malala was chosen to speak about the issues of her hometown on the BBC and eventually was asked to write a blog about the happenings in her town. Others were afraid to speak about their experiences because they would receive threats, but Malala would tell her story and that of the other young girls’ in Swat Valley. Eventually she was invited to speak on the radio and appear on TV news broadcasts where she would disperse her message about the importance and the right of an education.
Malala explained how her grandmother was worried about her safety and would pray that she would not get killed for speaking out. Malala never thought that the Taliban would attack a child like herself at the time, so she was more worried about her father being killed or attacked. She would pray every night for the whole world to be protected from danger and for there to be peace.
Mr. Hosseini asked Malala about her experience meeting the Prime Minister of Pakistan and how she spoke to him about her mission to provide schools and universities for girls and women to attend. By his reaction, she concluded that he would not take any steps in helping her goal become a reality, so she said that if she becomes Prime Minister one day, then she will make the changes she wants to see. She stated that, “You have to have an important role in your country in order to make changes”.
Her wish is to go back to her hometown one day and see her friends and family, to see girls and young women receiving an education, and for her home-country to gain peace and prosperity.
She finally spoke about that fateful day when she was shot. Malala stated that she does not recall what happened but only knows the details from those who have told her what occurred on that day. In October of 2012, Malala was shot pointblank by a 15-year-old boy who was recruited by the Taliban. He was meant to silence Malala from speaking out about her mission, but, instead, he gave her the opportunity to have the biggest platform on which to speak because of her experience, courage, bravery and survival. She was given the national stage in order to perpetuate her cause. And when asked if she is angry about what he did, Malala stated that she is not angry and that she forgives him because he was brainwashed into doing what he did.
Malala concluded by asking the audience to help her in her mission of every child having the opportunity to acquire a quality education, and spoke about the Malala Fund, which promotes education for girls and young women around the world.
A true hero and role model for young girls and women, Malala will with no doubt accomplish what she is set out to do.
For more information about Malala and The Malala Fund, please visit: www.malala.org
Event Review and Photos by Sophia M. Papadopoulos