Laurene Powell Jobs: I have the privilege of introducing you to the bravest person you’ll ever meet. You know the broad outlines of Malala Yousafzai’s story.
In October 2012, a masked Taliban gunman in Pakistan’s Swat Valley flagged down a school bus, boarded it and shouted at the terrified girls, “Who is Malala?” He then shot 15-year-old Malala in the face. Her crime? Speaking up for the right and belief that all children should be able to get education.
Their misguided violence resulted in making her voice and message exponentially stronger. Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about why the Taliban, and all who deny girls the right to learn, have everything to fear from this young woman. For this is a voice, as you will hear, that cannot and will not be silenced. As my friend who’s filming her documentary told me, “The Taliban shot the wrong girl”.
Malala Yousafzai: Thank you.
Powell Jobs: Talk a bit about your childhood and some of the conditions in the Swat Valley that shaped your upbringing.
Yousafzai: Swat Valley is a very beautiful place, with tall mountains, beautiful rivers and lush, green hills and trees.
We used to have tourists from all over the world.
I was going to school every day. My father, my mother—we all were in a very small house, not rich economically but rich in our values, in our ethics.
Then some extremists, the Taliban, came to the Swat Valley and changed our lives. Girls’ education was banned.
More than 400 schools were destroyed. Women were not allowed to go to markets. Hairdresser shops were blasted. They said that no one has the right to be free.
But education was very important to me. I wanted to be someone. I wanted to have an identity.
I had two options. One was to remain silent and never to speak and then to be killed by the terrorists. The second option was to speak up for my rights and then die. And I chose the second one.
On October 9, 2012, I was shot by the terrorists. They made a very big mistake, because I was afraid that they might be able to stop me. But they proved that no one can stop me. My weaknesses died that day, and a strength was born. So I think I should be very thankful to them.
Powell Jobs: What happened after you were shot? Where are you and your family living now?
Yousafzai: After I was shot, I was brought to Birmingham in England to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which is a very good hospital with nice doctors and nurses. They took care of me and all the surgeries were successful. I’m going to a very nice school. The girls at the school—they’re brilliant. I’m quite busy, and sometimes I miss a lot of lessons. I try my best to work hard.
Powell jobs: You can’t go back to Pakistan?
Yousafzai: It seems quite difficult. I wish to go back. We talked to the government. It does not seem safe.
Powell Jobs: How do you balance speaking to heads of state and then speaking to your girlfriends? How do you manage to navigate between all that comes with being a teenager and also this amazing opportunity that you have to be a spokesperson for girls’ education across the world?
Yousafzai: Most of the time, I do my activities for education and campaign for education on the weekends or holidays. Other than that, I don’t miss school days except for important events such as today.
Powell jobs: You had the idea of the Malala Fund when you were still in school in Pakistan?
Yousafzai: Yes, I did. It was for those girls who were suffering from domestic child labour. There was a woman who was coming to our house, and she had three little daughters. And I told my father, “I can’t see these little daughters working in our house”. But they would have no other way of earning a living.
My father was running a school at that time. The school is still there. He started it in 1994, and it had 1,100 students—both girls and boys. I told my father, “These girls should get free education in your school”. My father did admit those girls in school, and they have scholarships now from the Malala Fund.
Powell Jobs: You have an incredible opportunity to shape a conversation around issues that are critically important for girls across the world. And you will, by virtue of who you are, shine a bright spotlight on inequities and injustices. So why don’t you walk us through a bit of the priorities of the Malala Fund?