When Malala Yousafzai was born, the people in her Pakistani village pitied her parents—she wasn’t a boy. Now 18, Malala commands attention as the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner. During her journey to the world stage, she took on the Taliban as an 11-year-old blogger, survived an assassination attempt, and co-founded the Malala Fund to support education around the world.
He Named Me Malala, a film about her life, airs starting February 29 on the National Geographic Channel.
What would your life be like right now if you were living in Pakistan without an education?
I would have two or three children. I’m fortunate that I’m 18 and I’m still not married. When you don’t get an education, your life is very much controlled by others. When there was terrorism and girls were stopped from going to school, my fear wasn’t that I would be attacked for speaking out. My fear was that I would live a life in which I would not be able to be independent, to get an education, to be a doctor or a teacher or anything I wanted. I feared the life that many girls are suffering through right now.
What gave you the courage to speak up for girls?
My parents were always there to say that I have this right to speak, I have this right to go to school. If other girls in the Swat Valley, including some of my very close friends, had been given this right by their families, we would have been here together speaking out for girls’ right to go to school. What I really mean is that I’m not a special girl who was different than others. There were many girls who were there, who could speak out better than me, who were more forceful than me. But no one allowed them.
What can other kids do?
I consider myself very lucky to be on this platform where I can be the voice of the 60 million girls who are deprived of education, but I think it’s very important that children and kids think that their voices are powerful. It does not matter what your age is. We should believe in ourselves. If we want the future to be better, we need to start working on it right now. Children are in the millions in this world. If millions of children come together, they could build up this strong army, and then our leaders would have to listen to us.