(Above): Malala Yousafzai (All photos: Ras Siddiqui)
October 27, 2021 could easily have been named “Malala Day” in Sacramento as this dynamic young leader made her first ever visit to California’s Capital City. Her arrival here was a part of an ongoing event, the “Sacramento Speakers Series” which has resumed in person after a long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Malala is a perfect fit for such an event and the organizers of this series need to be commended for having her launch the 2021-2022 season.
The event started with Mitchell Ostwald, the Managing Principal of the series welcoming everyone. He said that this was the opening night of the 17th season of this speaker’s series “in person” (amidst applause). Mitchell added that tonight we welcome a very special person. She is internationally known for her advocacy of human rights and especially for the education of girls and that given the recent events in Afghanistan and the resurgence of the Taliban there her presence here could not be timelier
Malala was formally introduced on stage by the President and CEO of SAFE Credit Union, Dave Roughton. He said that he was extremely pleased and excited to introduce Malala who was born in Pakistan and who as a teenager spoke out publicly against the prohibition on the education of girls that was imposed by the Taliban. With a growing platform Malala gained international attention for her stand. And while riding the bus home from school one day, she was shot by a Taliban gunman. Following her recovery, she launched The Malala Fund which works to ensure that girls around the world have access to 12 years of free, safe, quality education, said Roughton. This includes schools in Afghanistan and given recent events, we hope that her work there continues. In 2014 she became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The United Nations Secretary General has appointed Malala as a UN Messenger of Peace to promote girls’ education. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Malala.
From the very onset, two things become quickly obvious about Malala Yousafzai. The first is a high level of confidence which makes her quite a communicator. And the second is that this young lady has quite a sense of humor which can be disarming for any audience. She greeted the audience in several languages including Pashto and said that she was very excited to be in Sacramento for the first time. She said that she was attacked for speaking out in support of girl’s education. She added that education was more than about learning, reading, and writing. It was about the emancipation and empowerment of women. Today, I work for all the 130 million girls who are out of school. This issue is always relevant, and the need is urgent, said Yousafzai.
Malala said that she was here, speaking, because of the education that she has received (she graduated last year from Oxford University) and that she was lucky to have a father (Ziauddin Yousafzai) who allowed her to speak out and did not stop her from going to school. Anyone could have been Malala and there are millions of Malala’s out there, said Yousafzai. They do not need anything special. You just need to support them in their education, and they will change the world.
In the follow up segment moderated by the Sacramento area’s well-known TV personality Deirdre Fitzpatrick from KCRA 3, Yousafzai was able to relax more, and answer questions sent in by the public ahead of time, questions from the area’s high school kids and then in closing questions submitted by the audience present at this venue. While responding to them she shared rare and humorous insights into her life, what it is like to live with younger brothers and even things as mundane as doing laundry.
It is not possible to incorporate or encapsulate all the topics discussed by Malala in this one report here, but we can just highlight a couple. The first was an observation, a question from her on her beautiful Swat Valley home once described as “The Switzerland of the East” by royalty. She said that this was (once) a place of tourism. How did it become a place of terrorism? Many Pakistanis are surely pondering this question today too since the Swat valley was once a very popular honeymoon destination for young couples from all over the country. On a question on who she would like to invite to dinner (famous people from history) if she had the opportunity Malala said Isaac Newton, Plato and a few others like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Bacha Khan and Benazir Bhutto.
Answering a question on Afghanistan she said that what is happening there right now is deeply concerning. The Taliban have not yet specified if girls can go to school or not and they need to be challenged on their vagueness on all women’s issues. She said that there were more than 50 Muslim countries in the world which do not ban girls from going to school and women from working (outside the home). How is it that only the Taliban can say that girls cannot go to school in Afghanistan? She asked for continued international pressure on them on this issue.
The final question was a continuation of a very brief conversation that this writer had with Malala just before the event. It was on Cricket. While answering, she requested the audience to try and follow the game and then proceeded to give them details on the three different formats of the game. To hear Malala explain to a local American audience how a 5 day Test Match, the 50 over One Day and the fastest the 20 over T20 are played was quite a treat!
To conclude Malala of the Yousafzai (Sons of Joseph) tribe of Pashtuns is no stranger to our world anymore. The youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize has led a tragic yet remarkable life so far. This now 24-year-old has become a champion for female education worldwide. She was shot at the age of 15 and it is a miracle that she lived. They say that God works in mysterious ways and her miraculous recovery and subsequent activism should be a source of inspiration for all of us.
This content was originally published here.
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