Ziauddin Yousafzai plays a big role in the young activist’s life and work.
Malala Yousafzai’s rise to prominence as a women’s rights activist came at a heavy price, having been singled out by the Taliban for her efforts at championing girls’ education. Her young life’s work has been documented extensively, as have the obstacles she faced along the way, but one persistent figure throughout her story is her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai.
The older Yousafzai is a vocal proponent of Malala’s work, and is featured heavily in the documentary about her, I Am Malala, as a central influence on her activism.
Recently, at the Investing in the Future UN Women Conference in the United Arab Emirates, he told Newsweek Middle East editor Arfa Shahid about raising Malala’s younger brothers as feminists.
“These rights of women are not given to them in the form of charity. It is their right,” Yousafzai said, partly in Urdu. “As a man, I sometimes feel ashamed when I see man’s history filled with oppression of women. And this is a sickness, when men fail to believe in a woman’s ability.”
— Arfa Shahid (@ArfaShahid) October 19, 2016
He told Shahid that old attitudes die hard, even outside of their culture:
We have a very patriarchal thinking. It has been happening for centuries. Even here in the UK, people who have come from Pakistan and have been living in the U.K. for 30-40 years, they still carry this sort of patriarchal values with them.
Yousafzai, a diplomat, is notably supportive of his Nobel laureate daughter’s mission to educate girls. Malala has credited her father for encouraging her down the path she’s on today. “What did I do for Malala that was different from any other father? Nothing,” he once said. “I just didn’t clip her wings.”