Men should be proud feminists, she says
Girls and young women want to make a change in society when they are aware of what’s wrong with it.
Activist and the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize Malala Yousafzai said this on day four, Monday, of the Women of the World Festival 2021 organised by the British Council Pakistan. Malala featured on the panel with Dr Maliha Khan, Malala Fund’s chief programmes officer. The session was moderated by Kate Ewart-Biggs of the British Council.
“There are so many girls and young women out there who want to see a change in the world,” said Malala. When asked if there’s something special about leadership by young women, Malala said: “It’s not just Greta [Thunberg] or Malala. There are so many women who want to see a change and care about climate change, human rights and equal place for everyone, including people from minority groups.”
She said it is important to recognise the struggles of the women who have fought before and won today’s women the rights to education, vote and a place at the table where they can voice their opinions.
We need to change things, she said, or there will be floods, drought, and catastrophic impacts affecting people from low-income backgrounds, especially women and children. Roughly 130 million girls out schools all over the world.
Research by Malala Fund on women, gender and climate change shows that people most vulnerable to such crises are women and girls. “If we want to challenge that then we have to invest in girls’ education,” said Malala.
“I am here and able to speak because I had parents who believed in me,” she said. Recounting her school days in Swat, Malala said she was always encouraged and supported by her father, unlike others who didn’t let their daughters speak out against oppression even when they wanted to.
“My parents challenged the community and reminded them my education was none of their business and that girls could make their own decisions.”
Sometimes, she said, it is the men’s inaction that proves helpful. “Women can have space at the table making decisions about their lives and their bodies.” Women must stay strong in the house and educate males about equal rights as charity begins at home. “Men must stand with women and be proud to be feminists.”
Malala emphasised the importance of reminding people how essential education is. “When a girl loses access to education, it has a huge impact on her future and the world economy as well.” Young women have no prospects of financial freedom, no autonomy over their bodies and are married off at a young age. Voices are lost at the table, affecting how policies are devised. “It’s all men making decisions about women, their lives and their bodies,” Malala remarked. “When you invest in girls’ education, you reduce the likelihood of war.”
A number of factors contribute to inaccessibility to education, including:
Dr Maliha revealed over 20 million additional girls are dropping out of schools because of the pandemic and some 90% of parents didn’t receive any form of support when education went online. Girls also suffered because their household chores increased manifold during the lockdown.
Speaking about women’s role during crises, Malala said they are always at the forefront, serving responsibly and actively. “We’ve seen that countries with women [at the helm] have done much better during the pandemic.”
Malala said it is important for everyone to fulfil their responsibilities, especially men, who should stand up for women’s rights, let them work and be proud of them being feminists. She hoped for building a Pakistan where every woman will have her rights and every girl will go to school. “Women must know what their rights are to bring the change that they want to see in the country.”