“Don’t ask me what I did. Ask me what I did not do. I did not clip her wings, and that’s all.”
“In many patriarchal societies and tribal societies, fathers are usually known by their sons. But I’m one of the few fathers who is known by his daughter, and I am proud of it,” said Ziauddin Yousafzai in his TED Talk last week.
His famous daughter is Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head at point-blank range by a Taliban soldier as she boarded a bus to school in Pakistan in 2012. Despite Taliban rules forbidding girls from being educated, Yousafzai refused to remove Malala from his school — defying cultural norms that rob girls of their freedom once they become teenagers.
“When [a girl] becomes 13 years old … She is no more a free individual. She becomes the so-called honor of her father and her brothers and of her family. And if she transgresses the code of that so-called honor, she could even be killed.”
Ironically, this “so-called honor” can actually end up hurting the men in her family, too. He tells the story of a family with seven sisters and one brother. “[The brother] has migrated to the Gulf countries to earn a living … because he thinks it will be humiliating if his seven sisters learn a skill, and they go out of the home and earn some livelihood. So this brother, he sacrifices the joys of his life and the happiness of his sisters at the altar of this so-called honor.”
Yousafzai says he uses education as emancipation. “I taught my girl students to unlearn the lesson of obedience. I taught my boy students to unlearn the lesson of so-called pseudo-honor.”
“People ask me, what special is in my mentorship which has made Malala so bold and so courageous and so vocal and poised? I tell them, don’t ask me what I did. Ask me what I did not do. I did not clip her wings, and that’s all.”
Watch his TED Talk here:
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Photo: TED Talk