Culture & Entertainment

5 magical moments with Malala Yousafzai

By: Doug O'Neill
Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

5 magical moments with Malala Yousafzai

By: Doug O'Neill
Today I sat in the stands at Wembley Stadium on the outskirts of London, England, where an audience of 12,000, mostly young volunteers from throughout England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, participated in the first We Day UK, hosted by the Canadian-based educational and development charity, Free the Children.
Malala Yousafzai at We Day UK
Stepping up to the podium today has been a parade of incredibly astute, powerful speakers and celebrities, many of them household names: actor Clive Owens, Prince Harry, singer-actor Jennifer Hudson, entrepreneur-innovator Sir Richard Branson, former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore, superstar Ellie Goulding, and the unstoppable Spencer West, an amazing guy who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro—without any legs. And there were others. But the one speaker who left me stunned and amazed was a young, simple-spoken women of great courage: Malala Yousafzai. Many of you know her as the young girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban because she dared to speak. I now know her—after meeting her in London today—as a young woman who is willingly transparent about her own weaknesses and fears, and therein lines the seeds of her courage. (I also credit her understanding and supportive father who has received death threats because he believed in his daughter's right to an education.) Malala is the youngest person in the world ever to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. This is the young girl who has been interviewed by Oprah, and has held audiences with the most powerful politicians in the world. She's also one of a handful of people in the last 80 years who has been granted Honorary Canadian Citizenship by our federal government. But the recurring thought that held me in its grip today was this: Malala is still a young a girl, a determined young woman who speaks her own mind, albeit timidly at times (on the surface) and who is still navigating her teenage years with family challenges, just like any other teenager. But her teen years have been unlike those of most of her peers. Malala, who dared to speak openly about women's rights and the educational rights of children in Pakistan, is still recovering from bullets to the head. But rest assured, there has been no dent to her steadfastness and fidelity to what is so meaningful to her: every one, man, woman, child—be they male or female—has a right to an education. My five stunning moments with Malala: 1. Firstly, I was struck with Malala's matter-of-fact way of speaking. There is no pretense. No drama. She speaks confidently and solidly from the heart. I was left speechless when she said: "When schools were blasted and bombed in Pakistan, you had two choices. You could choose to not speak and not die, or you could choose to speak and die.  I chose the second option." 2. Looking shyly at the podium, one hand holding her sari, she spoke softly: "You were all probably  expecting an incredibly strong woman to step up here today and speak to you.  Oh my goodness, that's so not me. I have weaknesses. We all have weaknesses." 3. On the topic of courage: "I have fears. I fear ghosts and dragons. But I have learned something long ago: Never let your fears get bigger than your courage. Your courage should always be stronger than your fear." 4. Encouraging others to speak up when it matters most: "The most powerful tool any of you have is your voice. Never lose that. Never stifle your voice." 5. Simple message: "One of my biggest messages I would like to share with you today will probably seem very simple, but I truly believe in it. It's this: be kinder to each other. In my opinion, it's a short life. There is so much unnecessary tension and conflict. But why waste our short time on that? Whether it's helping someone in the street, asking someone if they're okay, all you really need to do is be kind. A little kindness." What better person to celebrate International Woman's Day than a woman, a very young woman, who dares to speak up, who refuses to let her fear get bigger than her courage? Malala Yousafzai at We Day UK Read more about Malala, and discover the state of women's equity around the world as well as inspiring grassroots organizations at our International Women's Day page. And find out more about We Day right here.
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5 magical moments with Malala Yousafzai

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