Showing one person can in fact make a difference, Pakistani freedom fighter and activist Malala Yousafzai proved despite the challenging odds, her work, message and voice would not be silenced.
In a gala event, titled An Evening with Malala, at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), Port of Spain, Yousafzai shared her story and the reason for coming to Trinidad and Tobago in front of a packed auditorium of Government ministers and other dignitaries on Thursday evening. She was due to leave Trinidad yesterday.
Yousafzai slowly garnered the public’s attention at the tender age of 11 by writing for the BBC about life under the Taliban. Under the pseudo name, Gul Makai, she often spoke about her family’s fight for girls’ education in her community.
In October 2012, Yousafzai was targeted by the Taliban and shot in the head as she was returning from school on a bus. The teenager miraculously survived and continues her campaign for education. She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2013, and again in 2014.
Adorned in a coral and gold hijab, the soft-spoken 17-year-old said, “On that day when I was shot, my weakness, my fear and hopelessness died and strength and courage was born. On that day, I realised God was supporting me, people were supporting me and even death was supporting me. Death did not want to kill me and death knew I was right.”
Yousafzai said, “It is a question I get from a lot of people but it is also a question I pose to myself: why I am here, and why have I come to this country?
“I can answer it in two ways. Well the first way, I was invited; and the second, well I am going to give something and I’m going to take something,” she said.
“I am going to give something to this country which is to share my story and to tell children here how important it is for them to continue their education; to focus on it and make their country proud. The second one is to take something. I think which I take is an example; an example to tell the world that this country where education is free from primary, secondary and tertiary level and every child here has access to an education,” she added.
“In 2007, the Taliban came to my valley. It was a place that was beautiful, prized for its tourism. Now it was more seen as a place of terrorism. More than 400 schools were blasted and education was banned by the Taliban. They were misusing Islam, saying that education was not allowed in Islam, which is totally wrong. In Islam, education is allowed for every boy and every girl. The word Islam means peace; it does not mean any kind of fight,” she said.
“I am very thankful to my father for accepting me as his child; as his daughter and giving me equal rights as my brothers,” she said.
“My father was proud of me. My father was not discriminating. He loved me and he was proud of me. He always encouraged me to believe in myself. He always says ‘I did not clip her wings, I let her fly’. He always tell people don’t ask me what I did for Malala, ask me what I did not do,” she said.
“I am sharing this story for a purpose. The purpose is to tell you that education is important. My message to every child here is to focus on your education and be thankful for it because, let me tell you, there are millions of children out there that don’t have access to education,” she said.
In an effort to assist women and girls who do not have access to education and gain quality education, Yousafzai and her family set up the Malala Fund.
Yousafzai was invited by Minister of Tertiary Education and Skills Training Fazil Karim in celebration of The University of Trinidad and Tobago’s tenth anniversary.
UTT and the Malala Fund would be awarding two full scholarships two any two girls from anywhere in the world the opportunity to get quality education in any field of their choice at UTT.
Copies of her new book, I am Malala, were given to everyone in attendance.
Members of the public wishing
to contribute to the Malala Fund can
do so at First Citizens via account
#142-9625. Deposits can be made
at any First Citizens branch.