Creative Follower, Co-Leader, Ziauddin Yousafzai: “I am known by my daughter and proud of it”

“Malala used to be known as my daughter, but now I’m known as her father,” Ziaddin Yousafzai said to the crowd on Monday. “In patriarchal societies, fathers are known by their sons. I am known by my daughter and proud of it.” (from Eleanor Goldberg’s coverage of Yousafzai’s Ted2014 Talk on the Huffington Post. Read more….)
From the moment Malala was born, and her father, against patriarchal custom, entered her name in the book of their family (a custom normally reserved for sons), Ziaddin Yousafzai has been both a creative leader and follower. It is one of the very moving, inspiring parts of the story of her leadership – her partnership with her equally ambitious, eloquent and brave activist father.

His TedTalk points to an important question: How do we encourage more men to be advocates for the women in their lives? Shiza Shahid, CEO and co-founder of the Malala Fund said:  How do we [do it?] To be gentle, kind and supportive. To refuse to conform to stereotypes and to liberate themselves and their women from the shackles of patriarchy? While we have a long way to go, creating powerful spokespersons for the cause, like Ziauddin, is certainly the start.”

Malala Yousafzai with her father

Malala Yousafzai with her father

Malala’s dad, as he is more often known, is doing more than being an advocate. He trained her, manages her, celebrates her, and is willing to stand in her shadow. He is, through her, both leader and follower. Back in the Swat Valley, he had equal or greater status as a lifelong activist and educator. Here, he is willing to step back and let her have the limelight. It is perhaps not remarkable for some parents to do this — think about showbiz moms, or the parents of Olympic athletes. But in Pakistan, it is less common, even in secularized Islamic families. (Remember, Malala’s mom keeps purdah rules, and has rarely been photographed.)I appreciate the fact that in media coverage, and in her autobiography, Malala’s relationship with her father as her mentor and colleague is highlighted.

The “I am Malala” buttons should perhaps read, on the back, “and grateful for all those who have made it possible for me to lead.”


  1. […] Yousafzai is not only a hero for girls and women around the globe, but has won many awards, and deserves much attention. My article explores the power and challenges in her celebrity. […]


  2. […] to your calling in life, and create a plan to connect so that vision can be reached. (Remember, building someone or something up is always more effective than knocking someone or something down!) Be present to your vision; create an authentic self-representation so your true leadership can […]


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