Ziauddin Yousafzai is a Pakistani diplomat, educator, educational activist and human rights campaigner. He is known to the world at large as the father of youngest-ever Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, who is famous for her human rights campaigns, particularly for protesting against the Taliban for right of education for women in her native place, Swat Valley in Pakistan. Son of Rohul Amin Yousafzai, an Imam, school teacher, orator and educational activist, Ziauddin not only evolved as an education activist himself but also inspired his daughter Malala to stand up and speak for the cause, particularly for women. He runs a chain of schools named after renowned Pashtun poet, Khushal Khan Khattak as ‘Khushal Public School’. He is affiliated to the Pakistani left-wing Pashtun nationalist party the ‘Awami National Party’ (ANP). He helped to launch ‘Global Peace Centre Canada’ (GPCC) where he presently serves the Honorary Chair on its Board of Directors. He also serves as Special Advisor on Global Education of United Nations and Pakistan’s educational attaché in consulate in Birmingham, United Kingdom. Although Malala was attacked in 2012, it could not deter Ziauddin’s endeavour in fighting for educational right of children in the developing world.
Childhood & Early Life
Ziauddin hails from a Sunni Muslim family of Pashtun ethnicity from the Swat Valley, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan. He was born in 1969 to Rohul Amin Yousafzai. He has five sisters and an older brother, Saeed Ramzan.
His father was a government high school teacher of theology, orator and Imam of the local mosque. His father was also an education activist whose devotion for the cause motivated him to tread the path.
Ziauddin had a stutter in his childhood but with strong will and determination he overcame this and learnt to speak correctly.
He studied at the ‘Jahanzeb College’ in Swat Valley and obtained his masters in English. While in college, he joined the student group ‘Pakhtoon Students Federation’ (PSF) that advocated for equal rights for Pashtuns. He remained the general secretary of the federation.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
All through his life Ziauddin has remained an advocate of education for children, both boys and girls and backed every woman who wanted to educate herself and create her own identity. He attributes his endeavour in such pursuits to some extent to his early experiences.
He would see girls being engaged in household chores cooking for their fathers and brothers instead of going to school. In his speech for TED Talk he recalled incidents like his sisters staying back home while he went to school. Many such facts led him motivate his daughter to advocate for women’s right.
He himself runs a chain of schools called ‘Khushal Public School’. He started his schools along with his friend Naeem Khan after college studies.
He never shied away to express his regard for women and insisted that his school be open to girls as well. His school for both boys and girls was not taken well by many. A Mullah in his village once campaigned against him on this, but failed to deter him from his mission. He fought back saying ‘Nim Mullah khatrai iman’ that is “A Mullah who is not fully learned is a danger to faith”.
Like in many of the cases where girls are considered burden to the family, Ziauddin’s family was also unhappy when Malala was born. However, the proud father had already chalked out the very best of everything for his beloved daughter, much to the discontent of many.
He was not only vocal about his happiness in having a daughter but also stunned all in the family by insisting that the family tree should include Malala. While bringing up Malala he not only treated her equally along with his two sons but also encouraged her to stand up and speak for women’s right and fight against injustice.
Amidst severe political violence and death threats by the Taliban, who made attempts to shut down his schools, he peacefully resisted such efforts and went on to educate children in his schools.
After his friends faced gunshots from the Taliban, everyone thought he will be the next target. However, his little daughter, who already started following her father’s footsteps and garnered modest recognition by that time, was shot by a Taliban gunman in on October 9, 2012.
Such attack on his daughter could not dampen his spirit or that of his daughter’s in their crusade to educate children, particularly girls. On October 7, 2013 the Guardian mentioned “Ziauddin ... set up a school where girls could study as well as boys, in a part of the world where the gender gap in education is vast.”
He is affiliated with the leftist and secular Pashtun nationalist political party in Pakistan, the ‘Awami National Party’ (ANP).
‘Wilfrid Laurier University’ in Waterloo, Canada conferred him with an honorary doctorate of law on June 11, 2015 in recognition of his endeavours in educational rights of girls in Pakistan and commitment towards peace.
He helped launch the non-profit peace building organisation ‘Global Peace Centre Canada’ (GPCC) in July 2015. The organisation is affiliated with Conrad Grebel University at the University of Waterloo and is a member of MSCU Centre for Peace Advancement. At present he is the Honorary Chair on the Board of Directors of the organisation.
He and his daughter also received honorary doctorate from the ‘University of Ottawa’ in 2017.
He is a member of the Rotary Club of Swat and co-founder of Malala Fund where he presently serves as Chairman of the Board. He is also the educational attaché in the Pakistan consulate located in Birmingham and the United Nations Special Advisor on Global Education.
Personal Life & Legacy
He is married to Tor Pekai Yousafzai. Apart from her daughter Malala, he has two sons, Atal, and Khushal.