For Malala Yousafzai, shining the spotlight on the millions of displaced people around the world is a vital mission. The 21-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner drew inspiration for her book We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls from her life, as well as her experience of visiting refugee camps.
Yousafzai writes about her own displacement, first as an internally displaced person when she was a child in Pakistan, and then as an international activist who could travel anywhere in the world except to the home she loved. She also recounts the journeys of so many other refugees who have faced similar challenges.
Activist shines an important light on ongoing refugee crisis in We Are Displaced to the home she loved. She also recounts the journeys of so many other refugees who have faced similar challenges.
The civil rights advocate spoke about the tens of millions of individuals who are currently displaced, what she wants the world to know and how she learned to forgive in an in-depth interview with Parade magazine.
“Like me, the young women who share their stories in the book — from Colombia, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and around the world — know what it means to leave home because it’s too dangerous to stay,” Yousafzai began. “My book is titled We Are Displaced because together, we want to help others understand the ongoing refugee crisis and how they can help.”
Asked what is the most important thing she wants the world to know about being a refugee, Yousafzai had a bunch of statistics to offer. “Currently, more than 68.5 million people around the world are living as refugees or internally displaced people due to conflict, persecution or natural disasters. And the majority of these are children, mostly girls,” responded the activist.
“People leave jobs they love. Most students never see a classroom again. They have no choice. Whether you cross your country’s border or not, fleeing home and not knowing if you’ll ever return is a harrowing experience.”
We Are Displaced profiles two individuals by the name of Zaynab and Muzoon, both of whom are refugees. What does Yousafzai hope readers will learn from their stories? “I hope they remind everyone that refugees are so much more than staggering statistics or tragic headlines,” she said.
“They’ve had tough journeys. Zaynab had fled three wars by the time she turned 17 and remains separated from her sister. And when I met Muzoon, she was living in a small tent in a camp in Jordan with nine other people! Yet, these girls thrive when given support and education. They get top marks at university. They are leaders in the communities they’ve been granted asylum in. And they never shy away from an opportunity to challenge the social norms and global policies currently keeping girls out of school and refugees without aid,” she added.
Yousafzai also spoke about coming to terms with her own displacement and the violence she suffered at the hands of the Taliban. Has she forgiven those who changed her life? “I often say that forgiveness is the best revenge,” she replied. “Plus, I think my time and energy is best spent on school, family and advocating for girls’ education with the Malala Fund.”
She continued, “When I arrived in the UK, it wasn’t by choice. I was surrounded by people I didn’t know and forced to adjust to a new culture. I eventually did and was thankful to feel safe but I still missed home. Girls I meet who have experienced displacement often tell me the sounds and smells of home they miss. But mostly, I hear them say they want to get an education so that one day, they can return to rebuild what has been destroyed.”
But Yousafzai realises that the problem is complex and not so easy to fix. “The policies and priorities need to change. And individuals, businesses and governments need to follow through on commitments made to support out-of-school girls and refugees,” she concluded.