Sometimes, leadership is speaking truth about the importance of being counted, especially when you represent millions of girls who lack fundamental rights. Here are MalalaYousafzai’s inspiring words, from an interview in the Guardian, Children’s section.
“How important do you feel it is that young people are allowed to follow their own paths and make their own decisions?
It is very important for me – there are many friends of mine who don’t have any identity, they are wives, or daughters or sisters. They are not even known by their own name, and they cannot show what skills they have, or contribute to society. They are born, they help their mother take care of their father and brothers, they get married, they have children. They don’t really know who they are.
It is very important to know who you are. To make decisions. To show who you are. This is something my father gave me – or perhaps he did not stop me from realising who I am and recognising my rights. He did not tell me to stop going to school and he did not tell me to get married.
It is very important.
What makes you feel most like yourself?
From reading your story, you appear to have always known what you wanted and to have pursued it. Do you think that this aspect of your personality is something that has always been there, is inspired by anyone in particular, or is something you have worked on?
When I was young I used to listen to other people and to try and understand what they thought and where they were coming from. I listened and didn’t speak. But then my father encouraged me, he showed me it was okay to say whatever I wanted. I was following his advice but then he made me independent.
In trying to find our own identities, we are constantly redefining ourselves. What do you want to be defined by?
I call myself a young woman activist; fighting for girls’ rights, every child’s education, women’s rights, equality, and justice – education for every child.
What effect do you think the denial of an education to young girls has on their identity as they grow up? How would you say that your struggle on behalf of the rights of others has altered your own identity?
I think when a girl is not allowed to get education then the girl faces so many problems. She has nothing to do, she becomes a burden, then as she is not aware of her own rights then she loses her identity. She may face early marriage, and if she is poor then she might not know that child labour is a crime – she may have to earn for her family. She will be giving birth to children, and it can affect her health.
You are an inspiration to millions of young women across the world. Which women did you view as inspirational when you were growing up?
Benazir Bhutto was an inspirational leader and an inspirational woman. There were some things people didn’t like about her as a politician but she showed to people all around the world that a woman has the ability to become a leader, a prime minister. She gave me hope that I can do the same in the future.
There are many other women as well in our country that do a lot of work and they are social activists – they have been a constant inspiration to me as I was growing up. I would listen to these women speaking out.”
Just as we listen to Yousafzai, speaking out. In any given moment, that is what matters, the first step in becoming leaders ourselves – listening, speaking out, listening…. A tide of potential change.