In honor of the news that Malala Yousafzai has won the Nobel Prize for Peace (!!!) I wanted to repost this essay I wrote last March, after having watched her father, Ziauddin speak at the 2014 TED conference.
What an incredible family, and what beautiful news this is today.
Talk about freakin' Girl Power!
Anyhow, here goes:
March 18 2014
"UNLEARN THE LESSON OF OBEDIENCE."
Last night at the TED conference, I wept openly while listening to Ziauddin Yousafzai speak about his daughter, Malala.
You have have heard of Malala Yousafzai. She is the brave young Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman for speaking up on behalf of education for girls.
Her father began his extraordinary speech by saying that in tribal and patriarchal societies, a man is known by his sons. "But I am one of the few fathers who is known by my daughter," he said. "And I am proud of that."
He spoke about how, in rural Pakistan, when a girl is born, it is never cause for celebration, but rather shame. As she grows up, she is taught only one virtue: Obedience.
Yousafzai refused to follow suit. He celebrated his daughter from the day she was born, and wrote her name in the family tree — a 300 year-old document that had never mentioned a female. He put Malala in school — not only so that she could know her own potential through education, but also for the mere political defiance of writing his daughter's name on an enrollment form, thus signaling her very existence as a human being. (He had never seen the names of any of his 5 sisters on any document whatsoever; they simply did not exist within their own country.)
And most of all he said, "I taught her to unlearn the lesson of obedience."
Which was such a shocking transgression that a Taliban gunman shot her for it. (I always think it's particularly telling that she was shot in the head — shot in the MIND. Anything to shut down that female brain.)
She survived, famously, and still fights for education for girls. (She spoke last night to us from a video feed — she couldn't come to the conference because she's in SCHOOL — and she dazzled.)
This girl is extraordinary; this father is extraordinary.
He finished his speech by saying that people always ask him what he did to make Malala into such a strong warrior. He says it's not what he did; it's what he DIDN'T do: "I didn't clip her wings."
I was so honored and emotional to be there last night to hear this, and wanted to share it with you all.
Unlearn your obedience, women.
Teach your girls to unlearn their obedience.
Never clip their wings.
And let a star shine in the crown of this father, and all parents, who guide their daughters to grow strong.