On Sunday, March 3, 2024, the youngest awarded Nobel laureate and renowned advocate for girls’ education Malala Yousafzai visited the Ismaili Jamatkhana Harvest Green in Richmond, Texas located around the corner from Malala Yousafzai Elementary School. Malala commented on educational initiatives championed by the Malala Fund and Zindagi Trust, an educational non-profit organization in Pakistan. Shehzad Roy, the CEO of Zindagi Trust and a famous Ismaili Muslim Pakistani singer was also in attendance at the event accompanied by his wife Dr. Salma Alam, and son Sikander Roy.

The event had over 180 attendees, consisting of students, young professionals, and educators from the Jamat. President of the Ismaili Council for the Southwestern USA, Faisal Momin, commenced the event and commented on the importance of this dialogue.

“Together, we can build bridges of understanding, promote education, and empower women – ensuring more and more ‘Malalas’ come forth and leave their lasting impact on the world.”

President Faisal Momin moved on to discuss the many ways in which the initiatives of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) align with Zindagi Trust and the Malala Fund. He remarked on how Malala’s “...advocacy for the right to education, especially for young girls, aligns perfectly with the Ismaili community's shared commitment to creating a world where every individual, regardless of gender, has the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

Malala, whose courage and determination have become synonymous with the global fight for education and equality, addressed the audience, promoting a unique dialogue on the pursuit of educational equality. She commented on her work with Zindagi Trust in creating schools in the most rural areas of Pakistan. Malala spoke specifically about the remarkable success of one school founded through this partnership in Shangla, a district of Northern Pakistan. The purpose of this school, she stated, was “to prove to stakeholders, to the community, to all the key players that it is possible to (...) create a state-of-the-art school in a village” and to show that there is “no excuse not to make this happen in the rest of the country.”

After sharing her own experiences with working on educational equality, Malala encouraged everyone in the room to take action as well –

“My goal is that we see a world in our lifetime - the oldest person in this room, in your lifetime as well. We want to see a day when every child gets the opportunity to be in school and get that quality education. Let’s make that commitment. Let’s ensure that those 120 million girls who are out of school get in school. (...) I can see that future if we all believe in it, and we all make it happen.”

Shehzad Roy took the opportunity to share a few anecdotes about his work with Malala and touched on the impact his upbringing as an Ismaili Muslim has had on the work he is doing today. Emphasizing one important lesson he has learned, he said, “I learned from my [Ismaili] community that we should not just tolerate each other’s views, but we should coexist peacefully.” In reference also to his musical career, he reflected on how his love of music sprung out of experiences with his father playing guitar in his local Ismaili orchestra in Karachi.

In the Q&A session with moderator Zainab Khuwaja-Ali, Malala answered questions submitted before the event by members of the audience. One of the questions posed asked Malala for her advice on how we all can help bring about the change in the world that she advocates for. She responded,

“It requires the commitment of each and every one of us. (...) It is our responsibility to push leaders to do more for education. It is our responsibility to question them. If there is no hospital, no school in a village, we must be putting pressure on the policy-makers – what are they doing about it? (...) I see it more as a collective work. It is not about one individual, one foundation. We all must be playing our part. It is the collective work that really helps us see the change and the difference.”

Malala also addressed a few lighthearted questions about her personal life. When asked about her favorite television shows, she replied that she loves to watch the comedy-drama series Ted Lasso and the reality show Love is Blind.

Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala’s father, shared his gratitude and highlighted the importance of empowering children at a young age. In addition, Dr. Asaf Qadeer and Siraj Narsi, members of the Host Committee also addressed the audience and highlighted the importance of the work being done by Shehzad and Malala to improve quality of life through education.

Watch the full event video highlight here.

Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai at Harvest Green Jamatkhana