Stand #WithMalala

Malala is a little girl like me.

She is brave.

She wants all girls and boys to be able to go to school.

- Olivia age 5

In July of 1997 Pakistani diplomat Ziauddin Yousafzai and his wife Tor Pekai, welcomed a little girl into the world. He named her Malala, named after Malalai, a Pashtun heroine. Fifteen years later his daughter was gunned down by the Taliban. Malala's only crime was being an outspoken girl who felt all little girls deserved the right to an education. If you have read this far you know that Mr. Yousafzai’s daughter survived the assignation attempt and went on to become one of the world’s most prominent advocates for education rights and the youngest ever Nobel Peace prize winner.

But she wouldn’t have been so outspoken or have been a part of a BBC radio broadcasts talking about the conditions at her school, without the influence of her father. The documentary about Malala and her father, He Named Me Malala premieres commercial free on Monday, Feb. 29 at 8/7c on National Geographic Channel. When she was a very young girl, her father would have other diplomats and educated people over to their home to discuss politics, current events and other topics, she would sit with her father and listen. Soaking it all in. The Yousafzai's knew that making sure their daughter had an education and surrounding her with intellectuals would benefit her and benefit the people of Pakistan.

Malala was extremely lucky to have a dad like Zia. From a young age he tried to inspire her. Even though 10-15 years ago, when she was a small child, that kind of parenting especially for dads wasn't the "in" thing. Men were supposed to be distant and just provide the basic essentials for their children. Mr. Yousafzai, was honest with his daughter about the way society could be, his hopes and his fears for Malala and her brothers. He was ahead of his time, a true modern dad.

When my daughter was in kindergarten she had to do project for Women's history month. They had to choose a famous woman, find some facts about her, get a picture of her, and bring in supplies to make a paper doll of her. To me it seemed like a project that was a little advanced for a 5 year old. But I knew that it would be a good chance to find someone who my daughter could really look up to. A woman who has was not only accomplished, but extraordinary in her own right not just based on the accomplishments of her husband.

We decided that our daughter would do her project on Malala Yousafzai. She had been recently award the Nobel Peace Prize and was now living in the UK.  When we told our daughter about Malala we talked about how she stood up not only for herself, but for the girls she went to school with and girls she didn’t even know. My daughter didn’t quite understand why girls wouldn’t be allowed to go to school. Malala also didn’t understand why girls shouldn’t be allowed to go to school. She was raised by parents who felt men and women were equals. It was that belief ingrained in her from an early age, listening to her parents and their guests, that made Malala brave and outspoken. That was why the Taliban was so afraid of a 15 year old girl, they tried to silence her, but instead amplified her voice out of that small village in Pakistan onto a global stage.

We sent in our name request, since the teacher didn't want duplication. The teacher sent a note back tasking us to pick another person. The subject matter given what Malala endured would be too frightening. But my wife and I felt very strongly that Malala’s story was an important one and that she was a good role model for young girls like our daughter. We understood the teacher’s trepidation, Malala's story is very rough. And very real. We assured her that the project would be going very top line. We were not going to include gory details that should make people uncomfortable. Eventually she agreed and according to my daughter it went well. And apparently another child also did their report on Malala.

What did my daughter get out of this project? I hope that my daughter knows that she lives in a country that has equal rights for little girls and little boys, men and women, and the she has a voice. Mr. Yousafzai wished this for his daughter and I wish this for my daughter.

In HE NAMED ME MALALA Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth,” “Waiting for Superman”) examines how Malala, her father, Zia, and her family are committed to fighting for education for all girls worldwide. The film delivers an inside glimpse into this extraordinary young girl’s life — from her close relationship with her father, who inspired her love for education, to her impassioned speeches at the United Nations to joking around at home with her parents and brothers. For more information follow @MalalaFund, @21cf and @NatGeoChannel on twitter or www.malala.org

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