Last week we welcomed Malala Yousafai to Minneapolis! We were there to witness her take stage at Target Center as she spoke to us about the Malala Fund, her lifelong campaign for girls education.
The air felt, empowered. The applause was sprinkled with laughter, the seats silent as each of us was moved. We moved through the world with Malala in those moments as she took us through her harrowing journey.
From her childhood in Pakistan with her brothers, to secretly going to school with her girl friends, to surviving that fateful bullet, to her new life in Burmingham. And now her new campaign, involving yearly birthday trips to the world's largest refugee camps.
Malala talked highly of her father, of Swat Valley, of her best friend who she hasn't seen since that scary day. She spoke highly of our own local girls, her “Somali sisters,” as she put it, whom she just met hours before.
“Some of them had been to 6 different countries, they have been refugees and have been displaced from one place to another. And it is a really hard time in your life when you don't know who will accept you to live next to them.
Some of their stories are amazing -- Their dream is to go back to their communities and help all those girls that are there who don’t have access to education, so they can go to school as well. So thank you to my dear Somali sisters."
Malala said it was us the people who made our city beautiful. Looking around that was obvious. The youthful energy in the air, the hope, and the optimism—the positive change that Malala was bringing into the world felt tangible that night.
She even mentioned the “MN Nice” a few times saying, "This city has recognized that girls voices needs to be heard. So I’m really grateful… you are nice, you are like literally nice. You the people give the city beauty."
We happen to agree, which is why we took photographs of the beautiful people there with us that night. We met mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, husbands and groups of friends coming together to see not a Beiber concert, but to see Malala, a nobel peace laureate, a voice for all girls.
It was a magical night. Here are some of the faces of our city who stand with Malala, and some thoughts she shared with us on her evening in Minneapolis. Enjoy :)
[On her name]
"My father had a mission to empower women and to allow them to have recognition. So my father named me after Malala of Maiwand because she was brave. Her weapon was her voice. Her weapon was her voice and she raised her voice and she changed history."
[Why education is the core of who she is]
“When I was 10 or 11 it was a time when girls' education was banned in Swat Valley. That was when I realized how important it was for girls to go to school. I could imagine if I don’t go to school my life would be like many other girls who get married at 11 or 12 or 13, then have children, become mothers, and then grandmothers and become limited to the four walls of their houses. Their dreams, their aspirations they never come true.”
“I didn’t want to be one of those women who never got a voice.”
“I decided that even if it’s going to school secretly or sitting on the floor or whether it’s going to another country or another place, I will get my education at any cost."
[On forgiving her attackers]
“Now I have seen the worst thing that I could ever see in my life. What could be worse than this? They tried all their best. But the fact that I survived and they could not stop me is pure evidence that people are supporting me, people’s prayers are with me, God is supporting me, even death is supporting me. Death does not want me yet.”
[On being called a hero]
“First of all it is a great honor if someone appreciates you and supports you, it’s another way you get your strength from. But also praising a woman, praising a young girl who is speaking out is even greater than that. To believe that young girls can bring change”.
[On taking action]
“You don’t have to be someone very specific. You don’t have to be from a wealthy family or you don’t have to be any specific gender or any specific background to go forward. Just believe in yourself. And there will be challenges, it’s not easy. But believe in yourself and go forward.”
[On holding back frustration & creating change]
“I think if you are talking to politicians and want them to change things then you should be frustrated at every moment. But you have to work hard. It’s not something you can change in one day. This is my whole life campaign, this is my dream and I will keep on working hard for it.”
“If you tell them again and again and make them realize that it is about the children of this world, if they care about their own children, if they want their own children to go to university and have good educations the same they should think about the rest of the world’s children. If the child is from a poor country or poor family or if the child is from a different background, why should that mean they shouldn’t get an education?"
[On what to do as parents]
“If they have a dream, never tell them they can't do it. Always support them, always encourage them. Which is something my father does, he's listened to be since I was 11, he still listens to my brothers. That's really important, believing in children. Just because of age does not mean that they can't have an opinion."
[On the media & what we should know about Islam]
“Look at the billions of people in this world. Only a tiny bit is shown on media, which I think is really disappointing. There are 1.6 billion muslims in this world and if one terrorist attack happens it seems that all muslims have come together and planned it. Which really doesn’t make sense.
Like my father once said, go next door and see your Muslim friend, and talk to them and meet with them. And then you find the real image of people, then you find the love between the people. So I think people are the power. They first need to realize, they are the power."
Twin Cities, let's keep being known for being nice, let's all find ways to support the Malala Fund. The goal is to give every girl in the world safe access to 12 years of quality education.
Every voice matters.
Let's raise ours.
Here are a few ways you can take action:
• Organize a fundraiser
• Host a screening of He Named Me Malala
• Take a photo to share
• Submit artwork (ages 13-24)
• Sign & share petitions
MSP OpenIDEO Members..
We'd love to hear how you contribute to this campaign. Use the hashtag #MSPwithMalala if you raise your voice and take action. When you use this hashtag we can find you to let you know about future Malala inspired events and workshops.