I had lunch with Malala Yousafzai on Sunday – the Pakistani teenager who was shot by Taliban for promoting girl’s right to education. It was a combined charity- and business lunch, which turned out to be a very fine and moving experience. In this blog post I’ll try to share some of my impressions with you:
Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai (a name I wouldn’t even try to pronounce….) started off with a “saying” in his own language, then translated to English: “The closest you can be to God without being in a church or a mosque is to make a child smile”. Then he told us about the work he was doing in Pakistan to let poor children go to school, the school also Malala went to when she was shot by Taliban. He explained how their local society evaluates girls compared with boys (i.e. as nobody), and ended it by saying with a little smile that he was one of the few persons in the Swot District of Pakistan that would use the expression “Like Father – like daughter” instead of “Like father – like son”. He was also telling us about the moment when he all of a sudden realized that his 5 sisters lacked identity, simply because they had no education; he had actually never seen their names spelled until he was almost a grown up…
He was bursting with pride over his daughter! Here they are, fresh from my iPhone:
Malala was an amazing person. 16 years old! Her visit to Norway had to be in the weekend, because she didn’t want to miss any of her school lessons. She conveyed with a silent passion her affliction for the 57 million children on Earth that still don’t have the opportunity to get any education, for the 200 school girls in custody in Nigeria and for refugees in the uneasy areas around the world, – as well as her care and worries for her fellow schoolmates back home in Swot. All this without a hint of sentimentality or self-pity. She stated that she had dedicated her life to this case, and emphasized the right of all human beings to have a dream for their lives, and to be allowed to work for this dream.
She also took the opportunity to have a girls-chat with some very Nordic youngsters, of which one happens to be my stepdaughter.
I must say I was struck by the contrasts; most of all by the extreme differences in the opportunities these girls are given. I don’t think any of the two will ever complain again about how boring it is to go to school!
Well, not easy to transfer moods and feelings, but I must say this made a deep impression on me, and I’m again somewhat overwhelmed by the thought of how lucky I am to be born in our part of the world and in our time of the history!
It seems so obvious to me that no country can develop optimally as long as half of the population is excluded from the right to participate. But as we say in Basefarm: Systematic work always works! Malala’s dream is to be nothing less than the president of Pakistan, and she has already done a great deal of efficient fighting with a pen and her voice as weapons! PS. We donate some money to the Malala Fund. You can read about it here: http://malalafund.org/ DS.