Ziauddin Yousafzai is most notable for being the influential father of Nobel laureate, Malala Yousafzai, inspiring her to stand up for her education thanks to his experience openly advocating for education equality. When Malala protested against the Taliban for the educational rights of girls, especially Pakistani girls, she nearly paid the ultimate price after being shot in the head. With her father’s support, she pulled through and has joined his side as an educational activist. After the attack, Ziauddin co-founded the Malala Fund, and later published a book about their story, with the hopes of changing people’s mindset to women in education.
Born on the 20th April 1969, Ziauddin’s father was the orator Rohul Amin Yousafzai, a teacher of theology at a government high school and Imam of the local mosque. He used to be a teacher, running a chain of schools known as the Khushal Public School after the famous Pushtan poet, Khushal Khan Khattak.
Ziauddin attended Jahanzeb College located in Swat, Pakistan, before studying for a college degree in college. During this time, he was made general secretary of the Pakhtoon Students Federation, a student group who campaigned for equal rights. In 2015, he was offered an honorary Doctorate of Law from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada, in recognition of his dedication to peace and ongoing advocacy for female educational rights. Furthermore, along with his daughter, Ziauddin was awarded another honorary doctorate from the University of Ottawa, in 2017. Whilst advocating for equality, Ziauddin founded a school in response to the discrimination against female students in the Swat valley, where boys and girls could be educated together.
Since Malala’s attack, Ziauddin has done a sit-down interview with current affairs program, The Agenda. Additionally, he gave a TEDTalk speech where he listed the reasons for encouraging his daughter to speak up for women’s’ rights. In his speech, he recalls never seeing his sisters’ names written on paper growing up, and going to school while they all had to stay home. He attributes his activism to these experiences.
In his published autobiography, Let Her Fly, Ziauddin recounts his life ambition to secure equal opportunities for young girls. In a candid reflection, he describes his fight for the rights of all children to receive equal education, opportunities and social and political recognition. In his autobiography, he writes “whenever anybody has asked me how Malala became who she is, I have often used the phrase. ‘Ask me not what I did but what I did not do. I did not clip her wings’”.
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