Question: Even after you received the Nobel Peace Prize, there have been instances of girls being abducted, such as those held by Boko Haram. What is your message through this movie toward those who are targeting girls' education? What do you want to say?
Malala Yousafzai: The movie delivers the story of our family and how we were affected by terrorism, but then how we stood up for a right to education and to peace. But it's also true that this is not just the story of one family, it's the story of millions of people around the world. It's the story of millions of girls who are deprived of education. So I'm hopeful that this movie will raise awareness and remind people that there are many children, more than 66 million girls are away from school and they cannot go to school. So the movie will help people to understand the issues and try to find a solution to them, so I'm hoping.
Q: You were shot by those who claim to be true believers of Islam. In January this year, two Japanese hostages who were in Syria were executed by those who also claim to be true believers of Islam. What do you think is the true meaning of Islam, and why do you think the wrong message is spreading?
A: Islam is a religion of peace. The word Islam means peace. And it's all about interpreting and how people interpret Islam differently, and then mix it together with their own agenda. And unfortunately, we don't really have religious scholars who can stand up and say that this is not right. And we don't really have people who can say that this is not the real Islam. Now, I've been trying my hardest to say that Islam is about peace, Islam is about truthfulness and about brotherhood. In Islam, it is clearly mentioned that if you kill one person it is as if you have killed the whole of humanity. But if you save one person, it is as if you save the whole of humanity. And education is not just the right of every person, but it is your duty and your responsibility. You have to learn, you have to get knowledge and education. So unfortunately, there are people who claim to be the real people of Islam, but they don't really have the real information, the right information about Islam.
It's about speaking out at the right time. If you don't speak out, things will go on. Like in Swat Valley, if I would have stopped, if my father would have stopped, if everyone would have stopped speaking, then that situation would have continued.
Q: This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. Pakistan, your country, and also India, where the co-recipient of your Nobel Peace Prize is from, is unfortunately caught up in this nuclear stalemate. What do you think of nuclear weapons, or weapons in general?
A: Well, unfortunately weapons always cause destruction. It's always the killing of people and the destruction of people. Unfortunately, the world is spending too much on weapons. If the world leaders say let's stop spending on military just for eight days, all the money from those eight days of military spending, it can help ensure in one year 12 years of education for every child. So if the world leaders stop spending on military and weapons and wars, things will really change. But it's what they have made their priority.
But now I think we need to keep on struggling and remind them that education, health, these are the important things that people … you cannot help a person by making a gun. You give a gun to a child, how are you helping them? You spend hundreds and thousands of dollars. But if you say, I'm not going to spend this money on this gun, I'm going to spend this money on school, on health, you're helping that person, you're helping that child.
Q: So is that the reason you raised the subject of drone attacks when you met with President Barack Obama?
A: I mentioned drone attacks because it's true that drones can kill terrorists. But it cannot kill terrorism, this idea of terrorism. And for terrorism, you want to end terrorism, we need to ensure that every child gets quality education. Most of these people are uneducated, they don't have jobs, they are unemployed and they have no hope. They pick up guns. So if you want children not to pick up guns, we have to give them books.
But it's not the first time that things will change. You have to work hard. You have to say it again and again. The time will come when they have to listen; they cannot keep on ignoring you. And it's really as more and more people support me, my voice then becomes the voice of the people and no leader can ignore the voice of the people.
Q: How did winning the Nobel Peace Prize change your life?
A: I'm still the same. Same height, same body. In terms of opportunities, in terms of attention toward education and in terms of attention toward the work that people are doing for education ... like Kailash Satyarthi, who was the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, or the Malala Fund or many other organizations, is to drag the world's attention to those words, is to drag the world's attention to girls in Nigeria, in Kenya. And when I won the Nobel Peace Prize, I invited five friends from Nigeria, from Pakistan and from … one Syrian friend of mine. So that day was … I just felt that this prize was not for me, but it was for children. It was given to children that year.
Hopefully, maybe in the coming years, I might write a book. There might be another movie. But what we really want from this movie is raising awareness. Is telling the world that this is not the story of this one family or this one girl, but millions of children are suffering and it needs attention right now. Twelve years of education should be ensured for every child. There are children suffering from conflict, they should not be ignored anymore. Girls should not be ignored anymore. They are the future. If you ignore them, you are ignoring the future. So I'm hoping that the movie will bring that awareness, and I'm hoping that students will see the movie as well. We have this campaign, “Students Stand with Malala," trying to help students to see the movie, both in the developing and in the developed world.
Q: You mentioned in the news conference that you were thinking about returning to Pakistan. But what is your immediate plan for the next year? Are you planning to enrol in university?
A: I still have two years left. I will finish my "A" levels and then go to university. But I'm hopeful that I will visit Pakistan very soon. After finishing my education, it's very clear that I will go back to Pakistan.
Q: The movie also touches on the notion among some Pakistanis that you are only saying what your father has always been ordering you to say. What is your response to this type of misunderstanding about yourself in your own country?
A: I think it's a very small number of people, but I think sometimes criticism is good. You learn from it. Sometimes people are right. But my campaign is for education. It's not against a person, it's against this whole ideology of ignorance, this whole ideology of terrorism. It's not against people, it's against this idea that girls don't deserve the right to go to school. My campaign is to fight for education, to fight for every girl's right to go to school, to fight for every child's right to receive 12 years of education, and by that I mean quality education.
I believe there are always suspicions. But I think in some ways in our country, in Pakistan, there has always been … things haven't gone better. The people have seen terrorism, bomb blasts every day. Almost every day you hear about bomb blasts, people being killed. People have lost trust in politicians and that loss of trust, loss of hope, is one of the reasons that they are not expecting something good.
But usually the minority gets highlighted. It becomes news, while the majority stays silent ... and those who stay silent, even if they are in a large number, whatever they think is not as powerful compared to the minority who speak out.
Q: Are you hoping that this movie will be the driving force behind that change?
A: I'm hoping it will raise awareness and that people will understand our story more deeply, and see that this is the story of this family and how it stood up for education. So people will see our story more closely.
But I don't really think about it because if I just spent my whole time thinking about people that think against me, how I can change that thing, then I wouldn't be able to go forward in any way. So it's important just to focus on your work and focus on education and say, if you believe you are doing the right thing then … . Even if you are a prophet or anyone, critics will always be there.
Q: I think your message carries some weight, not because you're special and privileged, but because you're ordinary and you're representing others like you, and the movie is trying to depict this. But yet, I wonder if sometimes, if you might feel that it's too much attention around you, and you just wanted to be yourself? How do be yourself?
A: It's a very good question. So, right now, it seems like I have two different lives. One, girl at home fighting with brothers, living like a normal girl, going to school, have to do homework and have to do exams and all these things. I recently had my GCSE exams, so one is that girl, and then there is another girl who speaks out, outside and speaks out for education, so it seems two different lives, but the reality is that it's just one person doing all this, and I'm trying my best every day to connect these two together, and consider it as part of my life.
It's just me, if I'm going to school, like a normal student, have to do tests and exams, but also the girl who speaks out and who has seen this platform to raise the voices of the girls, so I in a sense have connected these two together, and both of these are part of my life, and in both senses, it's me.
Q: I am fascinated by your ordinariness. Do you have any hobbies? What do you do in your leisure time?
A: I spend time with my friends, we go shopping, watch some videos or listen to music. Fight with brothers.
Q: What type of music do you like?
A: Just like the latest songs, not very specific. And we also play … so we get addicted to one specific game. We are now addicted to Monopoly. We play Monopoly and I just cheat a little bit, not very much. They think there is cheating, I say, just a little bit, not very much (laughter).