Two dif­fer­ent lives

Malala Yousafzai’s coura­geous ad­vo­cacy for girls’ education is told in the doc­u­men­tary He Named Me Malala.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - WOMAN -

IN many ways, Malala Yousafzai is just like any other teenager. She loves to spend time with her fam­ily and friends, ar­gues, play­fully, with her brothers, likes play­ing games and dreams of go­ing to univer­sity to study.

And in so many other ways, she is quite re­mark­able – coura­geous, fiercely bright, ar­tic­u­late, pas­sion­ate, com­pas­sion­ate, wise and the youngest ever re­cip­i­ent of the No­bel Prize. And, per­haps most re­mark­able of all, she has re­fused to let a hor­rific at­tempt on her life si­lence her.

He Named Me Malala is an in­ti­mate por­trait of this ex­tra­or­di­nary young woman who, at 15, was tar­geted by the Tal­iban in her na­tive Swat Val­ley, Pak­istan and se­verely wounded by gun­shot as she re­turned home on a school bus.

The ter­ror­ists had sin­gled her out for ad­vo­cat­ing the rights for girls to have education – ‘ de­fy­ing’ a Tal­iban or­der. Her life hung in the bal­ance and only the skills of med­i­cal teams in Pak­istan and Bri­tain saved her.

Af­ter her re­cov­ery, Malala re­fused to give up and is now a lead­ing cam­paigner for girls’ education glob­ally as co- founder of the Malala Fund. She was awarded the No­bel Prize for Peace in Oc­to­ber 2014 when still only 17, mak­ing her the youngest ever lau­re­ate.

Her mem­oir, I Am Malala: The Story Of The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And Was Shot By The Tal­iban, co- writ­ten with Bri­tish jour­nal­ist Christina Lamb, was pub­lished in 2013 and Malala and her fam­ily were ap­proached by sev­eral film­mak­ers who wanted to tell her story on the big screen.

Her father, Zi­aud­din, a teacher who opened sev­eral schools in the Swat Val­ley, is him­self a com­mit­ted cam­paigner for the rights for girls’ education. Malala and Zi­aud­din chose pro­duc­ers Wal­ter Parkes and Lau­rie MacDon­ald who, in turn, brought di­rec­tor Davis Guggenheim on board.

What did you think of the film?

Malala: When I saw it I felt very happy that Davis has told our story very pow­er­fully. And I was also very pleased at how art and a story can come to­gether and make the story more beau­ti­ful and more pow­er­ful and this is what Davis has done – his art, his skills, com­bine with the story of our fam­ily.

When your book came out I’m sure you had ap­proaches from a lot of film­mak­ers who wanted to tell your story, be­cause it is an in­cred­i­ble story. Why did you feel that Lau­rie MacDon­ald, Wal­ter Parkes [ pro­duc­ers] and Davis were the right ones to do it?

Well, we had no idea how film would be able to de­liver our story and we were a bit wor­ried; if they were go­ing to choose some ac­tors or maybe ask us to act in it. It was a bit weird to think of it. But then Wal­ter and Lau­rie both had such pas­sion for education and they re­ally wanted peo­ple to get in­spired and to learn from it and also they thought that this was im­por­tant.

Be­cause for some peo­ple it’s just a story of a girl be­ing shot for stand­ing up for education, and that’s very nice, but they felt that this mes­sage about education should spread. And what we al­ways say is that this story is not the story of one fam­ily but this is the story of mil­lions of chil­dren, mil­lions of fam­i­lies.

So Wal­ter, Davis and Lau­rie have all shown that this is the story of one fam­ily but also mil­lions of peo­ple are suf­fer­ing through the same sit­u­a­tion, which this fam­ily has suf­fered.

Is it hard to watch your­self on film?

I can’t watch my in­ter­views, it’s ex­tremely hard for me. Se­ri­ously, if some­one is play­ing a video in which I’m talk­ing I can’t even hear my voice.

In the film we see your fam­ily try­ing to set­tle into a new coun­try, Bri­tain, so how is life for you and your fam­ily now?

In the be­gin­ning it was quite hard to set­tle in this to­tally dif­fer­ent coun­try with a new cul­ture and for me es­pe­cially, school was to­tally dif­fer­ent, it was a new way of teach­ing, a new way of ex­am­i­na­tions, and a new way of friend­ships.

But with the pas­sage of time it has got­ten much bet­ter now and we have lots of friends and at my school I have lots of friends and I just feel like I’m a Brum­mie* now [ laughs]. I’m a to­tal Brum­mie and I do feel like my ac­cent is chang­ing a bit, not in in­ter­views, but at home when I talk it’s to­tally dif­fer­ent.

Where are you with your own education now?

In the next two years I’ll be do­ing my A lev­els and then I want to go to univer­sity. I want to study PPE ( Phi­los­o­phy, Pol­i­tics and Econ­omy). I’m hop­ing that I can study that at Ox­ford and for that.

I’m work­ing hard and try­ing to get good grades and do some work ex­pe­ri­ence. I’ve done two weeks work ex­pe­ri­ence re­cently.

One week was at Mo­saic, which is the or­gan­i­sa­tion cre­ated by The Prince of Wales, which helps marginalised chil­dren in Bri­tain through men­tor­ing, and one was with a group that helps young peo­ple, where young peo­ple with new ideas can come and do what they want and help in the com­mu­nity.

I did the work ex­pe­ri­ences with my friend and it in­volved cre­at­ing a cam­paign and mak­ing coffee – that was the first time I learnt how to make coffee – do­ing work­shops, help­ing the peo­ple who were ar­rang­ing the work­shops, lots of things. I re­ally en­joyed it. And I want to have good things on my CV to help my ad­mis­sion to univer­sity.

Are you op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture in terms of education for girls?

I am very op­ti­mistic but in terms of tak­ing de­ci­sions and what should be done next, I am care­ful. I do think about both sides of an ar­gu­ment. But I am op­ti­mistic and I am hope­ful that there will be change but it’s when will that change come?

When will it be sorted out? When will things be bet­ter? Is that in 100 years? 50 years? 30 years? How much time will pass? And when will the world lead­ers give time to it?

That’s why we say that we need to speak for education right now be­cause if we re­main silent then world lead­ers, whose chil­dren are in very good schools and very good univer­si­ties, wouldn’t give time to the education of other chil­dren. So it’s im­por­tant that we high­light the is­sues right now. We need to con­tinue to keep it in the spot­light.

Do you ever feel that there is too much at­ten­tion on you and wish that you could just lead a ‘ nor­mal’ life?

Right now it feels like I have two dif­fer­ent lives. One is the girl at home fight­ing with her brothers, liv­ing like a nor­mal girl, go­ing to school, do­ing home­work and ex­ams. So one is that girl and then there is an­other girl who speaks out for education, so it seems like two dif­fer­ent lives, but the re­al­ity is that it’s one girl do­ing all those things.

I’m try­ing my best ev­ery day to con­nect the two to­gether and con­sider it as part of my life be­cause it’s just me. I’m go­ing to school like a nor­mal stu­dent and hav­ing to pre­pare for ex­ams and be­ing the girl that speaks out. So both of th­ese are part of my life and both are me.

Where do you see your­self in 10 years from now?

I think hope­fully I will have fin­ished my school and univer­sity education in the com­ing 10 years and I’m hop­ing that I will be do­ing great work in Pak­istan, help­ing chil­dren to go to school. I have a strong com­mit­ment to my coun­try.

I promised to my­self that I would help Pak­istan be­come a bet­ter coun­try and to help the peo­ple of Pak­istan re­ceive peace and make sure that they get a qual­ity education and they see de­vel­op­ment.

It’s re­ally sad to know that in this world on one side there is tech­nol­ogy and all th­ese new devices on the other side there are chil­dren who can’t go to school at all, there are peo­ple who don’t have ba­sic fa­cil­i­ties. So I am hop­ing to be able to help my coun­try and whichever way pos­si­ble, I will do it.

*‘ Brum­mie’ is a na­tive of Birm­ing­ham, Eng­land.

In con­junc­tion with the pre­miere of He Named Me Malala, Na­tional Geo­graphic Chan­nel and 21st Cen­tury Fox have also launched a global do­na­tion cam­paign that will do­nate US$ 1 for ev­ery tweet us­ing the hash­tag #WithMalala or when par­tic­i­pants change their pro­file pic­ture to a cus­tom video us­ing sup­port­malala.com.

The do­na­tions, amount­ing up to US$ 50,000, will go to­wards to the Malala Fund in sup­port of girls’ education. For more in­for­ma­tion and to get your own cus­tom pro­file pic­ture, please visit sup­port­malala.com.

He Named Me Malala will be aired on Na­tional Geo­graphic Chan­nel and Na­tional Geo­graphic Chan­nel HD ( Astro Chan­nels 553 and 573) at 9pm on In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day to­mor­row.

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