When Emma met Malala: The discourse on gender equality crosses borders

Published: November 7, 2015

Malala Yousafzai’s He Named Me Malala, a film based on Malala’s life and her struggle for girls’ education, has been released all over the world. Emma Watson, actress and United Nations’ Goodwill Ambassador, who also spearheads United Nations #HeForShe movement that involves men and boys to work towards gender equality, met Malala and these two extraordinary women sat down and spoke for a few minutes. Their discussion encapsulates how the discourse on gender equality should move forward.

Malala and Emma speak at length about the problems with the word ‘feminist’ and how this word sometimes has negative connotations. Malala speaks about her father who has been her biggest supporter in her long and difficult journey.

What is extraordinary about Malala’s film is that it depicts her as an ordinary girl. Malala stresses,

“I’m still a 17-year-old girl.”

Her brother cheekily admits that she’s “a little bit naughty” and she giggles as she tell us that she has a crush on Roger Federer.

The film situates her as an icon for women’s education without making her seem otherworldly. Malala recounts her struggle in Swat and stresses that her mission in life is to make education accessible to the 66 million girls who are out of schools and who are just like her. It is a touching account of a beautiful relationship between a father and a daughter. It illustrates how a father’s support for his daughter can go a long way.

Malala and Emma belong to two completely different worlds – yet their ideas about gender equality, when it comes to women and empowerment of women, are incredibly similar. This little exchange illustrates that feminism isn’t about rejecting familial values or hating men – rather it is about the simple idea that men and women are equal and anyone who believes in this simple idea, is a feminist.


Mahwash Badar

The author is a clinical psychologist, a mum to two boys and permanently in a state of flux. She tweets @mahwashajaz_ (twitter.com/mahwashajaz_)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • stevenson

    I think Malala is a great role model for Pakistani girls, especially for those living in rural and tribal areas but she has let her father compromise her stature and reputation. She seems to be controlled by him and there are complaints in the West that he runs her like a business. This is in stark contrast to the image of a powerful independent girl who advocates for girls education. The author should research more about the even worse discrimination against women in India where there are only 800 girls for every 1000 boys due to female infanticide and the shocking rapes of women that take place every few minutes. How this effects the psychology of women in India where these statistics exist and how it does not affect Pakistani women because it does not exist in Pakistan. It would be interesting to compare the two as a psychologist.Recommend

  • Brain Think

    Malala taking a dupatta on her head, Choice or Force?

    It is a double-edged sword either way. If she eventually does stop wearing it, she might end up getting more alienated back in Pakistan, BUT then again, no one here sees her returning for a foreseeable future.

    Her disingenuous father should let her live her life, and stop trying to remain in the news in order to “periodically cash out” on the patronizing western media.Recommend

  • Nida Ali

    Wow you know everything, don’t you buddy?Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/shoaib_112 Mirza Shoaib Ahmad Jarral

    Lolzz yeah you think.. :-DRecommend

  • Waseem Haider

    i don’t know why people are blaming to malala without reason and some people abuse her… if he migrate to US so it’s her life.. because she lived risky life in Pakistan.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Stupid is as stupid it gets.Recommend