The name Ziauddin Yousafzai does not ring a bell when you hear it. But soon as you search him on the web, you understand how instrumental has this father been in bring up one of the greatest activist of this time. But the mind of Ziauddin had already perceived the biases against the women in his household long before his marriage and his journey towards fatherhood. Growing up Ziauddin had five sisters and he could not miss the apparent bias that they had to go through from his parents with regards to food, clothes and education. Taught by his parents that how boys were superior then girls, he never was at ease with this notion.
The seeds of displeasure for treating girls on an unequal scale were sown around that time and little did Ziauddin know that this will later compel him to take steps that will put his daughter in a life threating danger. The struggle and conflict started the day Malala Yousafzai was born in a remote area of Pakistan and his family typical to the prevailing custom , refused to celebrate the daughter’s birth. To get an understanding of that time and the area, a daughter;s birth was taken as a weakness and nothing to rejoice or feel proud of. In some cases daughter;’s were used to settle family debts and end long drawn family feuds. In all the sense a birth of a boy was treated just the opposite and was linked with both fortune and progress for the family.
At that time, Taliban had passed a rule which prohibited the girl child to get education among other restrictions. So a time came when Ziauddin wanted education for Malala but due to the prevailing restrictions, could not get far. So what he started as a thought on equality for the girl child and to be seen at par with the male child, became a movement when the unwelcomed girl child joined her father and spoke against the inequality for girls and the prohibition on education for them.
At that time the Taliban were growing in strength and had taken over most of the Swat valley and would run a parallel government within Pakistan. they would announce orders over their own private radio channel and also issue threats to the supposed wrong doers who were trying to send their girl child to school. But this did not deter the father any bit.
Instead he increased his voice against the social norms, gender discrimination, and patriarchy became the struggle of both father and daughter. He could see in front of his eyes the beautiful world of Swat being destroyed and sometimes this also made him cry. And then he would look at his daughter Malala’s face and draw strength from her towards his beliefs for his daughters and like her many other girl childs across Pakistan. As a father it does take a heart to put your most cherished prize in harm’s way by making her part of the struggle at such young age and Ziauddin would feel the same within his heart. It can be considered as naivety on part of the father to believe that despite Taliban’s brutal reputation, they would never hurt a child.
Very soon in 2012, Malala was shot in the face as the Taliban could see her voice getting louder and tried to change the status quo for the girl child. And rest as we know is history. They wanted to shut the movement once and for all by silencing both the father and daughter with one brutal act. Ziauddin writes in his memoir
“When I say of Malala ‘I did not clip her wings,’ what I mean is that when she was small, I broke the scissors used by the society to clip girls’ wings. I did not let those scissors near Malala. I wanted to let her fly high in the sky, not scratch around in a dusty courtyard, grounded by social norms “
In his memoir titled “Let Her Fly” Ziauddin also details very intricately the other side of his personality in addition to being a father. They way he details out the small highlights of his village and the impoverished area, exhibits a deeper love of a man connected with his roots. Being in England he still misses his old village and vows to come and help them when he feel safe for his life and his families. In the memoir, he urges all the fathers like him to treat the girl child with same eye as the male child and giving them the same rights as the boys does not bring any shame to the family. On the contrary, he implore the parents to trust their daughters and never clip their wings.
Ziauddin Yousafzai, father of Nobel laureate and girls’ education activist Malala Yousafzai, pours his heart out in the brief memoir and becomes an exemplary father to his daughter for the world to see.
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