Malala, the Pakistani schoolgirl who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work campaigning for education after she survived being shot by the Taliban, has spoken to Emma Watson about feminism, her father and her fight for girls’ rights.
In an interview for the opening of the Into film festival, Malala Yousafzai paid tribute to her father, as well as the role that men can play in pushing for gender equality:
My father set an example to all parents, to all men, that if we want equality, if we want equal rights for women, then men have to step forwards … We all have to walk together; that’s how change will come. This is the role my father has taken. He believes in women’s rights, he believes in equality and he calls himself a feminist.
Malala, who now lives in Britain after recovering from a gun attack in 2012, then described how Watson’s speech to the UN on gender had prompted her to reconsider the word feminist.
It’s interesting that this word feminism, it has been a very tricky word: when I heard it the first time I heard some negative responses, some positive responses, and I hesitated in saying, am I a feminist or not? After hearing your speech – “If not now, when? If not me, who?” – I decided there is nothing wrong with calling yourself a feminist. So I am a feminist and you all should be feminists because feminism is another word for equality.
In the interview, Malala also disputed the idea that educating women was a Western ideal that was at odds with her religion, Islam.
People have misinterpreted the religion. For me it is a religion of peace for the good of all humanity. Live a better life and be kind. Why is it so hard to love one another?
The campaigner spoke of the need to ensure that 66 million girls around the world who are currently missing out on school were able to access an education:
If you are stopping half the population from coming forwards, how can you think of progress and achievement?
Writing about the interview on her Facebook page, Emma Watson said:
Perhaps the most moving moment of today for me was when Malala addressed the issue of feminism. To give you some background, I had initially planned to ask Malala whether or not she was a feminist, but then researched to see whether she had used this word to describe herself. Having seen that she hadn’t, I decided to take the question out before the day of our interview. To my utter shock Malala put the question back into one of her own answers and identified herself. Maybe feminist isn’t the easiest word to use … But she did it ANYWAY. You can probably see in the interview how I felt about this. She also gave me time at the end of the Q&A to speak about some of my own work, which she most certainly didn’t need to do, I was there to interview her. I think this gesture is so emblematic of what Malala and I went on to discuss. I’ve spoken before on what a controversial word feminism is currently. More recently, I am learning what a factionalized movement it is, too. We are all moving towards the same goal. Let’s not make it scary to say you’re a feminist. I want to make it a welcoming and inclusive movement. Let’s join our hands and move together so we can make real change. Malala and I are pretty serious about it but we need you.
Author: Ceri Parker is a commissioning editor for Forum Agenda