Las Vegas: Taliban’s efforts to keep girls away from education in Pakistan was defeated by their very action of shooting her, says Malala Yousafzai, the world’s youngest Nobel laureate.
“The result is that today millions of people all over the world are speaking out” and taking action against keeping young girls away from the liberating influence of education, she told an audience of several thousand techies here on Tuesday.
She was invited by VMware for their VMworld 2018 conference to talk about her rising from the near-death experience to become a leading voice in the world on educating young girls.
Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban member in 2012 when she defied the diktat of the Sunni Islamic fundamentalist movement, which was entrenched in Afghanistan.
She was interviewed on the stage by Sanjay Poonen, Chief Operating Officer of VMware.
Born in Swat Valley of Pakistan, Malala said her life was as normal as could be and she was lucky to have a father who believed in her and in educating girls.
“We could not then believe that something like the Taliban could happen, as you cannot today, here, that someone would come with guns and take away your right to education.”
She was repeatedly greeted with applause from an appreciative audience as she told her story of defiance.
She said she had to fight against the mindset of people — manifested by the Taliban men — who were against educating girls, or even allowing them to move out of their homes alone.
“They were against education because they knew that it would empower women to be independent.”
Men with guns first banned music, then they stopped women from going out and finally prevented the girls from being educated.
Malala did not remember the incident leading up to her shooting in the Swat Valley as she recalled the moment when she woke up in a hospital in Birmingham, UK, where she stayed for two and a half months.
She was conferred the Nobel Prize for her courage and became an activist and a symbol of defiance against the Taliban’s brand of politics.
Poonen sought to know why she had forgiven the person who sought to kill her. She said he was a young Taliban follower who was told that he had to kill a “blasphemous” person. He thought he was a doing good in a twisted thinking about Islam — a religion, she said, which spreads the message of kindness, tolerance and peace.
She said she hoped that the person gets education and realises the true meaning of the religion he was following. She also did not want to hold on to the anger. “Hate and anger is a waste of energy and I did not want to waste my energy”, and so she moved on to “forgive” the person who had attacked her.
She told the audience that she was named after Malalai of Maiwand who had defied the British troops in the 1880 Battle of Maiwand in Afghanistan, who was one of the few women known in history from the area, because traditionally women “did not have names”, as they were confined behind burkhas or head-to-toe-covering.
“They were called either someone’s daughter or sister,” not having a name of her own.
Talking on a lighter note at the conference, she said she was overwhelmed by “too many acronyms” used by the techies, bringing the house down. She spoke about her love of cricket and how she tried to explain to Westerners that it “was okay” to play a game for five days which was exciting and not boring as many thought.
She spoke about the need for India and Pakistan to have good relations, “but when it comes to cricket we are rivals”. She said it did not matter who got the cricketing World Cup as long as Pakistan won against India.
Poonen, of Indian origin, and who is responsible for worldwide sales, services, alliances, marketing and communication at VMware said that the two nations were united in their love for the game.
Malala also spoke about doing everything to ensure that girls get educated since 150 million of them worldwide did not get the “liberating influence” which would give them freedom and independence.
She works to raise money for her foundation which works in several countries towards that goal.
She told the 100 students invited to the conference from two schools that they should “believe in themselves” and speak up about things they believe in.
“There is no such thing as young age for taking up causes,” she told a student who posed a question on behalf of the others, pointing to her own age of 10 or 11 when she took up the fight against the Taliban.
Poonen announced Dell Technologies’ – VMware’s parent company – plan to provide the invited students’ school with computers, and he urged his colleagues (some 23,000 of them) to donate to Malala’s foundation for which the company would provide matching funds.