Anyone who follows world news has heard of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani advocate for girls’ education who started writing a blog for BBC at age 11. She addressed the UN on her 16th birthday, wrote her autobiography, is featured in a feature film of her life called He Named Me Malala (2015), and traveled to Syria and Kenya to meet with refugee children.[i] The Malala Fund helps with her goal to educate children, especially the 67 million girls out of school. She discussed the film with actress Emma Watson, telling her that she started identifying as a feminist after hearing Watson’s talk to the UN about her He for She campaign: Watson advocated, “Let’s not make it scary to say you’re a feminist.”[ii] Watson appeals to boys to join the cause of gender equality, to speak up. Malala advised young people on the video, “Don’t think your age can stop you from moving forward and thinking your ideas won’t work. Don’t wait until you’re grown up; that’s too late.” Watson agreed ageism is a problem similar to sexism.
Malala is the youngest person ever to receive a Nobel Prize (for peace), shared with an Indian advocate for child safety. She celebrated her 18th birthday in 2015 by opening a girls’ school for Syrian refugees in Lebanon paid for by the fund established in her name. Assertively she said she demanded that world leaders buy books instead of bullets. She said, “We children should not wait for someone else to speak up. Stand up for your rights.” She represents a pattern of successful first-born young women encouraged by their fathers, who are models of feminist parenting. When her teacher father was asked about his influence, Ziauddin said, “You should not ask me what I have done. Rather you ask me, what I did not do. I did not clip her wings to fly. I did not stop her from flying.”[iii]
[i] Robbie Couch, “The 5 Most Important Things Malala Has Done In 2014,: Huffington Post, October 10, 2014.
[iii] “Malala Yousafzai,” NPR.org, October 15, 201