Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old girls’ rights and education activist, who survived a 2012 assassination attempt by the Taliban, spoke about her fight for universal access to education during a Facebook Live chat Friday.
The chat, moderated by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, and presented in partnership with Sandberg’s foundation, LeanIn.org, featured questions from Facebook users across the globe, including high-profile fans of Yousafzai — Arianna Huffington and Melinda Gates.
Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream
At 15, Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban for her outspoken views on the right of girls to attend school. In introducing the young activist, Sandberg called her “a living symbol of the transcendent importance of education, who has really, truly uncommon courage.”
“Where does that type of bravery come from?” Sandberg asked her. “Where within yourself do you find that kind of courage?”
“Well first of all, we need to think of the situation and which type of circumstances I was at that time,” Yousafzai said. “There was fear, there was terror, there used to be bomb blasts all the time.” She explained:
That was a very difficult time and at that time when many schools were (blasted with bombs), I had only two options, the first option was to remain silent and wait to be killed and the second option was to speak up and then be killed. And I chose the second one. I did not want to live in that terror and in that fear for long and for my whole life. I wanted to see a change…even if I had to sacrifice my life. I wanted to see myself going to school, learning.
In what may have been one of few reminders that Yousafzai is, in fact, a teenager, she made occasional jokes about fighting with her brothers. When asked who inspires her, she spoke first of her parents and also referenced Martin Luther King Jr. and Benazir Bhutto. Speaking of King, she said “he campaigned for [his dream], he struggled for it and now we see how change has come into society.”
“We should not be hopeless,” she continued. “And we should continue our struggle because one day we will see every child going to school.”
She also spoke of recent work by the Malala Fund – the foundation she co-founded – in Pakistan, Jordan and most recently, Nigeria, where she urged President Goodluck Jonathan to meet with the parents of girls who had been kidnapped by terrorist group Boko Haram. While some girls reportedly escaped, more than 200 are believed to still be held captive, according to the Wall Street Journal. Yousafzai addressed the kidnapped girls, who she calls “her sisters” in an op-ed for The Washington Post last month.
In her submitted question, Gates asked what Yousafzai would tell young people who don’t think they can really make a difference.
“I would tell the young people that I also used to think that my voice could not make a difference, but it did,” she said.
Yousafzai also had praise for Sandberg, telling her: “You are really an inspiration to women all around the world, to tell women that they really should participate in every part of life and — lean in.”
She encouraged young people to “use social media as a platform for speaking up.” As the chat ended, Sandberg asked viewers to join Yousafzai’s social media campaign, in which people are asked to share what they are #strongerthan.
Sandberg then read Yousafzai’s response to the question: “I’m stronger than fear, I’m stronger than violence, I’m stronger than terrorism. I’m stronger than every kind of thing that stops me from getting an education.”
Yousafzai’s Facebook Live interview isn’t her first social media-driven chat of the week — on Thursday, she reportedly FaceTimed with pop singer Justin Bieber.