Ziauddin Yousafzai, father of Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, is encouraging fathers around the world to speak up about gender inequality and use their voices to create change.
Malala Yousafzai is an education and women’s rights activist who was shot by the Taliban in 2012 for speaking out against them. Since recovering, she has continued to fight for girls’ education rights all over the world.
She and her father, Ziauddin, founded the Malala Fund in 2013. The charity organization upholds every young girl’s right to go to school. It provides advocacy and funding to educators in regions where girls are prohibited from or unable to attend school. The charity has supported the education of girls in Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Nigeria, Syria, and Pakistan.
Ziauddin also dedicates his life to fighting for girls’ rights to quality education. In Pakistan, he was a schoolteacher and opened up a chain of schools known as the Khushal Public School, where he was determined to give local boys and girls the same education. At the time, Ziauddin’s activist work was dangerous and brave. The Taliban had taken control of the region and imposed a ban on female education. Despite this, Ziauddin continued to fight for what he believed in and encouraged his daughter to do the same.
Last year, Ziauddin released an autobiography, Let Her Fly, about his journey to empower his children and spark change as a father. He explains how important it was to include his daughter’s name in their ancient family tree; the first female name featured in three hundred years. “It was a way of showing the world, showing myself, not only in words but in actions that girls are equal to boys; they matter, their needs matter,” he writes.
Ziauddin has been an advocate for gender equality since he was a teen, after realizing the discrimination within his household. Growing up in Pakistan, he was surrounded by patriarchal order and was always taught that men deserved better than women. He was frustrated that his five sisters weren’t allowed to go to school, and thought it was crippling to their future. He vowed that when he became a father, he would be different.
He and his wife consider each other equal partners and have always been determined to raise Malala the same way they raised their sons. He believes that fathers are essential in fighting for women’s rights because they can empower their daughters and be faithful in their worth as they become women.
“Women’s voices are the most important in feminism. But in patriarchal societies, a father’s voice is perhaps the next most important tool to galvanize change,” he says.