This past Tuesday evening I was incredibly honored and grateful to be invited to hear the incredible Malala Yousafzai and her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, speak about continuing the world-wide fight for education for all children. I’ve long been an admirer of Malala, since her horrific story hit the news in 2012. Two summers ago her book, I am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban, was one of my favorite reads. When I saw she was coming to Kansas City to speak, I knew I wanted to take my daughter. Malala was only 11 (a year older than Lucy) when she began writing her BBC blog, documenting life under the Taliban regime, and I really wanted my daughter to experience getting to hear someone speak who stood up against oppression at such a young age.
Having the opportunity to take Lucy to this event was a huge gift to both of us. Malala’s message is one of empowerment, and she talked in detail about how education can enable girls to be change-makers in their communities. Before the event started, the host asked all the people in the audience under 20-years-old to stand up and be recognized…and I won’t lie. When Lucy stood up, and the people around us started cheering for her, I totally started crying. I’m so proud of the young lady she is becoming, and I know she’s going to change the world in big ways!
First we heard from Malala’s father, Ziauddin, who was so inspiring to me as a parent. He spoke about coming from a place where women were not valued in the same way as men, and how he had five sisters, but no one ever thought to send them to school. Ziauddin is an educator himself, and when he was blessed with a daughter, he knew he needed to create his own school to ensure she could attend. He said, “My biggest achievement in my life is being the father to a daughter.” He encouraged us to stand up against oppression and inequality, and reminded us that the biggest capitol we have in our communities is US!
“Your own voice is the most powerful voice…raise it!” – Ziauddin Yousafzai
Then Malala came on stage and told her story. When she was 11-years-old, the Taliban came to her community and banned all the girls from attending school. She continued to attend, at much risk to herself and her family, and her father continued to teach girls, even though many schools were being bombed. She then began blogging for the BBC, sharing with the western world what it was like to be growing up female in Pakistan with the Taliban in control. In 2012, when she was 15-years-old, Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban as she rode home on the bus after school. She was deliberately attacked because she had spoken out regarding education for girls. Amazingly, she survived and continues to speak worldwide about the issue of education for all people.
“I was shot to be silenced, but the opposite happened and my voice is louder than before.” – Malala Yousafzai
The question and answer section of the event was my favorite part, because hearing the candid and strong answers from Malala and her father was incredibly inspiring. Much of the conversation revolved around lack of funding for education around the world and the effect of poverty on education. Both Malala and her father stressed that the problem isn’t “lack of funds,” but instead the allocation of funds. Malala said the most surprising thing she’s seen in her travels is the lack of investment in education. She said if military entities worldwide stopped their spending for only eight days, we would be able to educate all of the children across the earth that are currently NOT attending school.
“More guns and bombs will never protect you. Educated children do not need to pick up guns.” – Malala Yousafzai
When I asked Lucy her favorite part of the event, she said it was when a child in the audience asked Malala what still scares her….her answer? Balloons! I loved that, because it helped show Lucy that even though Malala is an extraordinary person, she is still just a regular girl. Albeit, a girl who has won the Nobel Peace Prize!
Malala also told the crowd that the reason she always felt she could speak up, was because her father ALWAYS listened to her and her siblings. Even if they just wanted to talk about something silly, she said he would stop what he was doing and really listen to them. This was a huge wake up call for me as a parent. There are definitely times when I dismiss what my kids are saying, or shush them because I’m too “busy” with my own stuff, and that is something I plan on working on. I want my daughter to know her voice matters, and that begins at home.
I have to give HUGE thanks to Hallmark, who along with sponsoring Chat 2.0, gave Lucy and I the opportunity to attend this once-in-a-lifetime event. Hallmark Cards has a mission to help create communities where all children have the chance to grow up as healthy, productive and caring persons and vibrant arts and cultural experiences enrich the lives of all citizens. I so admire Hallmark’s dedication to gender diversity, especially in the STEM fields. Lucy really enjoyed seeing the Hallmark engineers before the event, and learning how they use math, science, engineering and technology to create so many incredible products. Lucy loves art AND science, and she loved seeing how the two can work together to make beautiful things!
“You young people…you need to speak out. I didn’t wait for someone older to come speak for me. Believe in your voice. Believe in yourself.” – Malala Yousafzai
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Hallmark, However, the written remarks and opinions are entirely my own.