Malala Yousafzai’s father speaks on campus, launches curriculum at GW

Ziauddin Yousafzai, father of 17-year-old, Nobel Peace Prize-winning Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai spoke at GW Thursday. Aly Kruse | Hatchet Photographer
Ziauddin Yousafzai, the father of 17-year-old Nobel laureate and Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai spoke at GW on Thursday. Aly Kruse | Hatchet Photographer
This post was written by Hatchet reporter Lila Weatherly.

Ziauddin Yousafzai, the father of 17-year-old Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, came to GW on Thursday to speak about education as a global human right.

Ziauddin Yousafzai also helped launch a GW-made curriculum inspired by his daughter’s autobiography.

He gave a short speech and then sat down for a Q&A session with Catherine Russell, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues, and Lois Romano from Politico.

Here are some key takeaways from his speech.

1. “The story of 57 million children”

Ziauddin Yousafzai started his speech talking about the role that students play in making change.

“The very presence of you inspires teachers, so I feel very inspired tonight,” Ziauddin Yousafzai said.

He also said even though his daughter’s memoir focuses on her own experiences in Taliban-occupied Pakistan, it reflects the larger trend of a lack of educational opportunities for girls and all children.

“It is not the story of one family, it is the story of 57 million children out of school,” he said.

2. Prioritizing education

Ziauddin Yousafzai said the “most beautiful glimpse” is a child with a backpack.

Yousafzai often earned praise from his friends and family for his fearless support of his family’s education, and the education of all children.

“They say it takes a lot of courage to speak, but for me it takes a lot of cowardice not to speak,” he said.

“We need to include role models in our textbooks,” he added. “We have to reach out to students of today to reach fathers of tomorrow.”

3. Considering the reasons

Russell said when looking at reasons why girls aren’t able to go to school, governments have to consider reasons like pregnancy or marriages at young ages.

“Though there is no easy answer to approaching the issue globally, we have to do something about the devastating numbers of uneducated girls,” she said. “The advancement of women and girls globally must be a part of U.S. foreign policy.”

4. “Change comes”

Ziauddin Yousafzai said he still hopes for a future when education everywhere is a priority.

For example, he said he has seen fathers in Pakistan be more receptive to the idea of opening their homes as classrooms after five schools were shut down in the area.

“There is no magic wand. It’s a long walk,” he said. “We have to do something everyday. Change comes.”

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