During a visit last week to the School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Q) on the side of the 2022 Doha Forum, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai called for continued advocacy for the rights to education for girls. “We should not let the Taliban or any extremist group misuse religion to keep girls and women out of school,” said the 24-year-old educational activist to an audience of students in Professor Leonard Williams’ introductory course on American politics (GOVT-020).
Ms. Yousafzai highlighted that 130 million girls between the ages of 6 and 17 are out of school, half of whom are from sub-Saharan Africa. She urged the global community to recognize this as “a global human rights issue” caused by many factors such as social norms, climate change, the lacking infrastructure, and conflict.
The Nobel laureate also expressed her satisfaction with the shared declaration of the Doha Forum panel, which stated that the Taliban’s banning of girls from school had no basis in religious belief or practice. The diverse panel, of which Ms. Yousafzai was a part, included leading Islamic scholars and analysts.
Students in Professor Williams’ class appreciated the opportunity to not only hear about Ms. Yousafzai’s life and work but also to gain deep insights into educational advocacy. Kamilah Idris (SFS ’22), an educational advocate from Nigeria, was able to ask for Malala’s views on at-home training programs. Kamilah believes these programs provide benefits for girls but could reinforce social restrictions at the same time. “This is why I believe it’s important to have these conversations and discuss these topics because together we can provide solutions that can be adapted into our own contexts,” said Kamilah, who is also the president of the SFS-Q African Students Association.
“Students loved having the chance to hear from her. Malala spoke about her life and work, and her passion for promoting educational opportunity,” said Dr. Williams. “Her experiences certainly helped set the stage for further class discussions on the significance of the course topics on civil liberties and civil rights, and of individual freedom and fair treatment in the U.S.”
Dean Clyde Wilcox thanked the Pakistani activist for her visit and presented her with a scholarly biography of Fatima Jinnah, an activist and one of the leading founders of Pakistan. The book, titled “Fatima Jinnah: Mother of the Nation,” is the first scholarly biography to tackle her life in full and was written by Dr. M. Reza Pirbhai, Associate Professor of History at SFS-Q.