A Chat with Malala Yousafzai

1454Asianbarta : TIME For Kids talks with the Nobel Prize-winning activist about how education can change lives around the world, and how you can help.

At age 11, Malala Yousafzai began blogging for the news agency BBC. Her topic was the takeover of her hometown Mingora, Pakistan, by the Islamic militant group, the Taliban. Over the course of the 10 months that she blogged, the Taliban banned girls from attending school. “All I want is an education, and I am afraid of no one,” Yousafzai said at the time.

Then, on October 9th, 2012, a Taliban gunman boarded her school bus. He shot Yousafzai in the head, in an attempt to silence her. Against the odds, she recovered. She has committed herself to spreading a message of peace and equality ever since. The mission of Yousafzai’s foundation, the Malala Fund, is to secure girls’ rights to education around the world. In 2014, Yousafzai received the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming at 17 the youngest to win the award in history.

TIME FOR KIDS:

Tell us a little bit about the Malala Fund and the importance of your cause.

MALALA YOUSAFZAI:

Right now, millions of girls and children are out of school. At Malala Fund, we are determined to send everyone to school. That’s my vision. I want to see every girl, every child, get an education.

We provide local leaders in countries like Nigeria and Pakistan with funding, or any other kind of support they need. In Kenya and in Rwanda, my focus is refugee children. There are many Somalian girls in Kenya’s Dadaab Refugee Camp who have lost their opportunity to go to school.

TFK:

Do any stories stand out?

MALALA YOUSAFZAI:

One story struck me, and also inspired me. A Somali girl named Rahma Hussein Noor had been enrolled in school at the refugee camp in Kenya. A few years ago, she and her family went back to Somalia. But there was no school for girls in her country. Rhama decided to return to the refugee camp in Kenya. She contacted someone in Canada on Facebook, and he sent her some money. She traveled for eight days, without her family. Who would sacrifice her home and family, and take such a big risk to study in a refugee camp? Education is so important to these girls.

TFK:

What has to change in order for every girl to go to school without having to fight for it?

YOUSAFZAI:

It’s important to recognize that education is not just going to school. Education changes a girl’s life forever, especially in poor countries. If a girl does not have the opportunity to go to school, then in many places like Pakistan and Afghanistan their future is to get married at a young age.

When you educate a girl, you empower her. You change her future. That’s why we need to invest in girls.

TFK:

How have you reacted to the amazing response kids have had to you and your work?

YOUSAFZAI:

It was three and a half years ago that I was attacked. I was in the hospital, in the Intensive Care Unit, and doctors were coming by. One day, the doctor brought some cards and letters to me. She said it was just a few of all the many that had arrived. It was so surprising to see how people supported me. I was completely moved. I feel so strongly that if I did not receive that support, it would have weakened me. But I received the support, and it strengthened me.

The Taliban tried to stop me, but now I’m in a position where I’m not just one person, but many, many hundreds and thousands, because people are standing with me.

TFK:

Do you read your fans’ letters?

YOUSAFZAI:

If I receive it, I’ll read it. I’ll try my best to reply, but make sure you write your address and all your information! I feel grateful and it makes me so happy to read such powerful words from people. One girl from India sent me a letter saying, “Malala, you once said you want to be prime minister of Pakistan. So I have changed my plans and I want to be prime minister of India. When we grow up and become prime ministers, we will make peace between the countries.”

TFK:

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

YOUSAFZAI:

Right now, I’m just focusing on my education. I have one year of school left. I’m working hard to get good grades so that a university will admit me. I want to get a quality education. That’s what I stand for, so I deserve it as well. But my main goal is the education of every child. That will never change. Until I see every single child going to school, I will continue.

TFK:

What are some ways that kids in the U.S. can get involved in helping girls get an education?

YOUSAFZAI:

You can join petitions online. [A petition is a written request, often signed by many people, asking for a favor or right.] By joining petitions, joining campaigns, you can raise awareness. You can inspire many young people to speak out. Take advantage of the tool of social media and use it for good.

TFK:

What other advice do you have for our readers?

YOUSAFZAI:

Keep reading. Make sure that you read magazines and newspapers. Read about what’s happening around the world. You have many amazing young girls in this world who want the opportunity to get an education. Make sure you do something for them. Stand up with them. I’m not just saying this to girls, but also to boys. You, too, must feel a part of this mission, because these are your sisters. They are a part of your community. We all need to contribute.

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