Nobel Peace Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai condemned Donald Trump’s views on Muslims on Tuesday, at a sombre ceremony to remember the 134 children killed in a Taliban attack on a Pakistani school a year ago. “Well, that’s really tragic that you hear these comments which are full of hatred, full of …Read More »
I don’t quite subscribe to the theory – promoted by some in Pakistan – that Malala Yousafzai is a “CIA Agent” but I have always been a cynic when it comes to the youngest-ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s probably because I’m often cynical about people who have …Read More »
From the legendary guitarist Jimmy Page through American Vice President-turned-environmental campaigner Al Gore all the way to Barack Obama, American documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim has turned his lens on some of the most fascinating characters of our times. But while Guggenheim’s made films on rock music, climate change, immigration, U2 …Read More »
At the age of just 14, Afghan rights activist Aziza Rahimzada has already surmounted legal hurdles preventing 25,000 refugee children from attending school, and cajoled authorities into providing tap water to a camp housing more than 100 families.
Now she has been nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize an award previously won by Malala Yousafzai and, like her Pakistani counterpart, hopes to spread her message of universal education and fundamental rights for Afghanistan's youth.
"These children are the products of war," Aziza says during an interview with AFP from the Kabul camp for internally displaced people where she was born after her family fled fighting in the Parwan province in 2001.
"They have suffered a lot during the war years. I give them advice and council them on the value of education," she says in Dari, wearing a black-and-white headscarf as she sits on the floor of the tiny mud brick home that houses her family of eight.
"Their families are also uneducated so sometimes we have to convince them too."
It is a thin line to walk, both for someone so young and without stirring a backlash in a conservative society unused to children, particularly girls, speaking up for themselves.
Aziza's confidence impressed the Mobile Mini Circus for Children (MMCC), an international humanitarian group founded by Danes Berit Muhlhausen and David Mason, who moved to Afghanistan shortly after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.
The group works throughout Afghanistan with a local partner and aims to bring children together through play, while identifying young leaders who can represent the needs of their communities.
In a country ravaged by decades of war, where more than 60 percent of the population are under 25, those needs are great.
"She was very special from the beginning. She was thinking more than the others, advocating for others, asking questions. Gradually she became a representative for the other children," said Mason.
In "shuras" (consultative councils) organised by the group, Aziza quickly identified pressing issues faced by the 500 or so children in her camp, and others like it in Kabul.
Foremost among these was the lack of running water, which meant children were sent far away to fetch heavy pails of waters for the family -- until Aziza intervened, securing a pipe that pumps water into the camp and serves 144 families.
Another key issue was education. As children of refugees born into abject poverty, those in the camps lacked the necessary documentation for admission into the capital city's schools, with Kabul authorities viewing the internally displaced people as temporary migrants who would eventually return to their home districts.
Helped by the MMCC, Aziza led the children in lobbying local officials and then parliament, with the aid of some high-profile lawmakers like women's rights activist Fawzia Koofi.
Her persistence eventually led to a breakthrough allowing some 25,000 children living in Kabul's 59 refugee camps to register in the capital, making them eligible to attend school.
"This was an achievement of astronomic scale. I saw those kids in school uniform, and I couldn't recognise them. It was such a relief to see them it was such a radical transformation," said Mason, the MMCC director.
Aziza's unique talent, Mason's partner Muhlhausen argues, lies not only in her gifted rhetoric, but in her ability to forcefully advocate for her fellow children without stirring controversy.
She is among the final three nominees for the award along with Abraham Keita, 17, from Liberia and Jeanesha Bou, also 17, of Puerto Rico, with the winner announced in the Hague on November 9.
But the teenager, who says she wants to found her country's first Ombudsman's office to redress her fellow citizen's grievances, says her work is far from complete.
"What I have achieved so far is nothing," she says, emphasising that as time goes on, her country will have to stand on its own feet.
"The foreign NGOs will one day stop their aid. That's why we need to strengthen our own institutions and improve social justice for our people," she said.Read More »
Malala was the name on everyone’s lips this week at the London Film Festival where a documentary about the youngest-ever Nobel Peace laureate had its European premiere.
“He named me Malala” is an intimate portrait of Malala Yousafzai and during the festival even the biggest stars seemed humbled by the teenager and her aspirations.
American actress Meryl Streep hailed her as the worthy heiress of the suffragettes who battled for the right to vote in Britain in the early 20th century.
Filmed over 18 months in Britain, Kenya, Nigeria, Abu Dhabi and Jordan, the documentary by American David Guggenheim recalls how Malala’s father chose her name in honour of Malalai of Maiwand, a heroine who rallied the Pashtun army against British troops in 1880.
“When I was little, many people would say, `Change Malala’s name. It’s a bad name, it means sad.’ But my father would always say,`No, it has another meaning. Bravery’,” Malala said.
On screen, the 18-year-old is seen at her home in Birmingham, central England, explaining to her father in the family living room how Twitter works, or squabbling with her brothers, Atal and Khushal.
“She’s fighting for human rights but at home she’s so violent,” complained Atal after being beaten in an arm wrestling match.
The film follows her at school, in the streets of New York, at a refugee camp, spreading her optimistic and determined message on the right to education.
“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world,” she proclaimed.
The documentary also shows Malala’s life in Swat valley where she decided, aged 11, to write a blog for the BBC — “Diary of a Pakistani schoolgirl” — in which she denounces Taliban violence.
Guggenheim turns to animation to bring to life these years before the attempted assassination in October 2012, when Taliban gunmen opened fire on then 14-year-old Malala on her school bus.
The cartoons, matching photos from the family album, also evoke the childhood of Malala’s mother, Toor Pekai Yousafzai, who recalled her own brief education on Friday at London’s Women in the World summit.
“I left school because I was the only girl in a class full of boys. I just wanted to play with my cousins who were girls,” she said in Pashtun, adding that she is now trying to learn to read and write in English.
Of her daughter, she explained that, despite the anguish, she could not “stop a girl like her from talking or speaking up”.
“Sometimes when I worried she would tell me `I can’t stop going to school, I can’t stop talking, because I am a girl and we cannot go back to the ages when they buried girls alive. I want to progress. I want to speak’.”
The film also shows the months of hospitalisation and re-education of the girl who wants to become prime minister of Pakistan, as well as her close relationship to her father.
“We are one soul in two different bodies,” said Malala in the documentary.
To silence the critics who see her as her father’s mouthpiece, she added: “My father only gave me the name Malalai. He didn’t make me Malalai. I chose this life.”
Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, meanwhile told of his astonishment at the Taliban attack, saying, “they had never killed a child, I never expected that”.
On occasions in the film, Malala is just a normal teenager: she looks at photos of Brad Pitt, speaks of her favourite book, “the Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, and shares her passion for cricket.
But she recognises the difference between her and her British classmates who “all have boyfriends”. And she shares her dreams of one day returning to the Swat valley.
“He named me Malala” is released in Britain on Nov 6.Read More »
Davis Guggenheim has made movies about world leaders (Barack Obama, Al Gore) and rock stars (U2, Jimmy Page, Jack White), but it's his new film about a girl and her dad that affected him most.
Of course, Malala Yousafzai is no ordinary girl.
Guggenheim spent a year and a half with the Nobel Peace Prize winner and her family to make the documentary "He Named Me Malala".
He came away deeply moved.
"She's my favourite," the Oscar-winning documentarian ("An Inconvenient Truth") said.
"You're not supposed to have favourites, but she's incredible. I've fallen in love with this family."
Even more than Malala's activism, Guggenheim was inspired by the Yousafzai family dynamic, how they value tradition, education and fun.
"I wanted my family to be more like their family," said the 51-year-old father of three.
"I wanted my family to have this joyous love for each other, this very expressive sense of love."
"He Named Me Malala" is a personal portrait of the teen activist, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating for girls' education in Pakistan.
She recovered and continued her work globally, addressing the United Nations in 2013 and winning the Nobel Peace Prize last year.
The film centres on Malala's close relationship with her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, a teacher and public speaker who knew his daughter's gender didn't limit her potential.
"I have two daughters, and my daughters are mysterious to me," Guggenheim said. "I want to know what he did, what she did in that relationship. I want to unpack that relationship somehow."
He learned about Malala's family history of public speaking: Her grandfather was a cleric and her dad has long defended education and liberty in the face of religious extremism. The filmmaker learned about the Pashtun heroine she's is named for: Malalai of Maiwand, a brave young woman who rallied Afghani troops against the British Army in 1880 and was killed for being outspoken.
He followed Malala and her father as they travelled to Kenya, Nigeria and Jordan to support children's rights. Guggenheim also filmed Malala at home, where she does her homework, teases her brothers and blushes as she looks at pictures of Roger Federer online.
But even after hundreds of interviews and countless hours spent with the Yousafzai family, Guggenheim says 18-year-old Malala is still "a complete mystery to me."
"Clearly, she's a combination of all these wonderful things: her father's dream for her, her mother's intense spirituality," he said. "But also (it's) just who she is."
A world icon and a regular teenage girl, she's Guggenheim's favourite.
"This movie has been my favourite movie because it really has changed my life. It blows me away," he said.
"I want what they have. I want to be the father that Zia is. I want my daughters to feel the love that he gives Malala. I want them to feel that love and respect."Read More »
Teenaged Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai has appealed for world leaders to do more on Syria, saying that the drowning of a toddler showed the world had “lost humanity.”
The 18-year-old Pakistani, who was shot by the Taliban for defiantly going to school, said she was so upset by abuses of girls at the hands of extremists in Syria and Iraq that she has stopped watching the news.
But she saw and remained haunted by the picture of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler whose body washed up on a Turkish beach in an image that became emblematic of the risky exodus of refugees seeking safety in Europe.
“We lost humanity on that day when… nowhere a child is welcomed,” she told reporters at the United Nations.
“It is important that people open their hearts and people open their lands to people who are now needing more support and who need the right to live,” she said.
Malala appealed to world leaders to imagine their own children suffering the abuses meted out by the Islamic State movement, which has sexually enslaved girls from minority groups.
“The first thing is that the world leaders need to take all these issues more seriously,” said Malala, who brought with her four girls including a Syrian refugee.
“They should think about their own children.”
Malala came to New York for the adoption of a new UN development agenda, which aims to end extreme poverty in 15 years.
She met on the sidelines with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has emerged as the leading European force in support of welcoming refugees.
The youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize winner explained her fund that supports girls’ education during the 15-minute meeting with Merkel, a German government source said.
Malala has not returned to Pakistan for three years amid concerns for her safety, instead studying in Birmingham, England.
She said she took two days off to come to the United Nations.
“I never miss a school day unless it’s for a good cause and it really brings change,” she said.
As the World leaders on Friday pledged to end extreme poverty within 15 years, adopting an ambitious set of UN goals to be backed up by trillions of dollars in development spending, Malala urged world leaders to zero in on promoting education.
Stressing the need of unity for achieving the goal of education, Malala described the promoting education as “the real investment the world needs and what world leaders must do.”
The new UN agenda aims to end poverty, ensure healthy lives, promote education and combat climate change, at a cost of between $3.5 and $5 trillion per year until 2030.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the plan as a “to-do list for people and planet” that laid out a “universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world.”
“The true test of commitment to agenda 2030 will be implementation,” Ban told leaders. “We need action from everyone, everywhere.”
The goals are non-binding, but the United Nations is planning to roll out 300 indicators to track progress and pile pressure on governments that fail to make the grade.
It is unlikely that all countries will achieve all of the goals, but aid groups say they will provide benchmarks for governments in every area of development.Read More »
Fox Searchlight Pictures has released the first clip from ‘He Named Me Malala’, Davis Guggenheim’s highly-anticipated documentary charting the story of Nobel Peace Prize-winning Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousafzai.
In the clip, Malala talks about the relationship with her parents, in particular her beloved father Ziauddin Yousafzai, an “extraordinary” man who played a pivotal role in empowering her to greatness.Read More »
For most teens, the GCSE’s are a source of consternation, a rite of passage that must be navigated while you grapple with such trivialities as prom dresses and annoying younger brothers. So imagine having to ensure that you pass your GCSE’s whilst campaigning around the world for the right of …Read More »
A Pakistani court has sentenced 10 militants to life in prison for their involvement in the attack on Malala Yousafzai, nearly three years after the teenage education activist was shot and seriously wounded as she made her way to school in the country’s restive Swat region. Prosecutors in the north-western …Read More »