Here is the full transcript of Pakistani diplomat Ziauddin Yousafzai’s TED Talk: My Daughter, Malala at TED Talks Conference. To learn more about the speaker, read the bio here.
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Ziauddin Yousafzai – Pakistani diplomat
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.
Malala started her campaign for education and stood for her rights in 2007. And when her efforts were honored in 2011, and she was given the national youth peace prize, and she became a very famous, very popular young girl of her country. Before that, she was my daughter, but now I am her father.
Ladies and gentlemen, if we glance to human history, the story of women is the story of injustice, inequality, violence and exploitation. You see, in patriarchal societies, right from the very beginning, when a girl is born, her birth is not celebrated. She is not welcomed, neither by father nor by mother.
Neighborhood comes and commiserates with the mother, and nobody congratulates the father. And a mother is very uncomfortable for having a girl child. When she gives birth to the first girl child, first daughter, she is sad. When she gives birth to the second daughter, she is shocked, and in the expectation of a son, when she gives birth to a third daughter, she feels guilty like a criminal.
Not only the mother suffers, but the daughter, the newly born daughter, when she grows old, she suffers too. At the age of five, while she should be going to school, she stays at home and her brothers are admitted in a school.
Until the age of 12, somehow, she has a good life. She can have fun. She can play with her friends in the streets, and she can move around in the streets like a butterfly.
But when she enters her teens, when she becomes 13 years old, she is forbidden to go out of her home without a male escort. She is confined under the four walls of her home. She is no more – she is no more a free individual. She becomes the so-called honor of her father and of her brothers and of her family. And if she transgresses the code of that so-called honor, even she could be killed.
And it is also interesting that this so-called code of honor, it does not only affect the life of a girl, it also affects the life of the male members of the family.
I know a family of seven sisters and one brother. And that one brother, he has migrated to the Gulf countries, to earn a living for his seven sisters and parents, because he thinks that – he thinks that it will be humiliating if his seven sisters learn a skill and they go out of 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 so-called honor.
And there is one more norm of the patriarchal societies that is called obedience. A good girl – a good girl is supposed to be very quiet, very humble and very submissive. It is the criteria. The role model good girl should be very quiet. She is supposed to be silent and she is supposed to accept the decisions of her father and mother and the decisions of elders, even if she does not like them.
If she is married to a man she doesn’t like or if she is married to an old man, she has to accept, because she does not want to be dubbed as disobedient. If she is married very early, she has to accept. Otherwise, she will be called disobedient.
And what happens at the end? In the words of a poetess, she is wedded, bedded, and then she gives birth to more sons and daughters. And it is the irony of the situation that this mother, she teaches the same lesson of obedience to her daughter and the same lesson of honor to her sons. And this vicious cycle goes on, goes on.