Malala's New Book Tells Refugee Girls' Stories in Their Own Words
Malala Yousafzai’s latest book, We Are Displaced, aims to humanize the refugee experience and support girls’ education.
The youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner joined New York Times journalist Rukmini Callimachi at BAM theater in New York City to promote the new book’s release Tuesday. Educators, students, and fans of the humanitarian were eager to hear her discuss her fourth book with Callimachi, a refugee whose family fled Romania.
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“People do not know enough about refugees — they are not seen as humans,” Yousafzai said.
“People are not welcoming refugees at this time. There is a negative attitude towards them. We hear about refugees in the news, in statistics, in figures. We hear of them, but we never hear from them,” she went on.
In We Are Displaced, Yousafzai writes about her own situation after her family fled Pakistan in 2007 to escape the Taliban’s rule. The militant group contributes to stopping more than 25 million children from going to school in the country.
Callimachi asked Yousafzai to recount what it was like preparing to leave her home in search of safety.
“I wanted to take my school bag because these are my books, I want to learn I want to study. My mom did not let me take that bag,” Yousafzai said about leaving in the month of May. She described the worry she felt about her exams in June, and the uncertainty of not knowing if she’d ever return to her studies.
The book also tells the stories of refugee girls in their own words, highlighting the lives of different young women whose paths have gone in different directions after being forced to leave home.
“Girls globally are facing challenges. There are 130 million girls globally who do not have access to education. There are millions of children who are displaced who cannot have access to quality education who cannot complete their schooling and go to universities,” Yousafzai explained.
Proceeds of the book will benefit The Malala Fund, the nonprofit organization founded by the 21-year-old activist to support girls’ education. Yousafzai was proud to share the organization is bringing educational digital devices that don’t rely on electricity to refugee camps and continues to support local initiatives around the globe.
“We Are Displaced” shares the stories of eight resilient girls — Marie Claire, Najlaa, Sabreen, María, Zaynab, Muzoon, Ajida and Analisa — who were forced out of their homes by conflict. “I didn’t want to leave my country. It was the only home I’d ever known. But even at thirteen years old, I knew that if I did not leave then, it could be the end of my story.” — 19-year-old Syrian activist and refugee Muzoon | Proceeds from every book sold will benefit girls in the book and Malala Fund’s work for girls’ education. Purchase #WeAreDisplaced with link in bio.
Yousafzai emphasized the need for girls’ education to be an international priority.
“Developed countries have a responsibility to make humanitarian aid for the countries that do not have all the opportunities and facilities. Developed countries are supposed to be giving support to them. They should increase their investments,” she said.
Yousafzai hopes her new book empowers people to take initiative to make a difference themselves and stand up against inequality.
She shared an account of a young woman she met named Jennifer, who became interested in refugees, did some online research, and ended up helping refugees in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with basic needs like grocery shopping and companionship.
When a member of the audience asked Yousafzai when she felt most empowered, she responded, “Deciding to speak out in Pakistan.”
She reflected on advocating for girls’ education in Pakistan even though it put her life in danger, eventually leading her to be shot in the head by the Taliban for vocalizing her opposition of their laws.
“As soon as I was speaking out and I knew I was speaking the truth, you can never have a greater feeling of empowerment than that.”
Yousafzai wants everyone to join her effort to ensure all girls and children have the chance to receive an education.
“There’s an opportunity for us to all do something. Oftentimes we think the issue is so far away, it’s somewhere else, there’s nothing we can do. There are organizations that are out there that are helping girls and their education, whether that’s raising awareness in your school, doing fundraising, going out and talking to people, asking your local leaders and politicians, your senators, asking them what they are doing. You can ask your presidents.
We often do not realize. We think we’re one person, ‘What can I do?’ We need to understand the power that we have, from the power of the vote to the power of our voice,” she encouraged the crowd as they cheered.