During a visit to São Paulo yesterday (Jul. 9), Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai described long-term education as the most worthwhile investment, especially for women and girls. “Girls’ empowerment comes from education, it’s about emancipation,” she said during an event held by a Brazilian private bank.
Yousafzai was the youngest person to have received the Nobel Peace Prize—she was 17 at the time. At 15, she was shot by members of the fundamentalist group Taliban after she argued against the prohibition of education for women. The Pakistani girl remembers that, during her school years, her classmates also stood up for education for women. “The difference is, my parents never kept me from speaking my mind,” she said.
She recounted the story of a classmate who was always late for class because she had to wait until her parents left so she could secretly go to school. “The role of parents is crucial in women’s empowerment,” she said.
Trip to Brazil
Yousafzai said that one of her goals in Brazil is to find a way to see the 1,5 million girls out of school in the country gain access to education. She said she wants to boost education in underprivileged communities in Brazil, especially among Afro-Brazilians. Soon, she said, a project by the Malala Fund is to be unveiled, aimed at promoting the debate on education in electoral campaigns.
Also in attendance was Tábata Amaral, 24, who has represented Brazil in international science competitions, and an astrophysics student at Harvard. She suggested a closer connection among activists fighting for education. Yousafzai said she believes in a solution found by community leaders. “We must go to the communities and work with local activists—people who understand the problems and know how to best solve them,” she said.
The importance of reading
Conceição Evaristo, a Brazilian writer who holds a PhD in comparative literature and the winner of a major award for her short stories, also took place in the debate. She stressed the importance of reading and writing, as encouraged by Yousafzai, who shared her story and her struggle in a book.
“The people who have no access [to reading] are robbed of their full rights as citizens. May your presence strengthen the commitment the Brazilian state must make to have people taught to read and write,” Evaristo said, addressing Yousafzai.