Women supporting women. Malala Yousafzai had nothing but love to share for this year’s female Oscar nominees on the red carpet.
The education activist, 25, attended the 95th annual Academy Awards in a glittering silver gown alongside her husband, Asser Malik, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday, March 12. She served as an executive producer on the movie Stranger at the Gate, which was nominated for Best Documentary Short Film at the ceremony.
While chatting exclusively with Us Weekly at the awards festivities, the I Am Malala author revealed that she is inspired by women in the entertainment industry. “I am really thanking all the women directors, producers, actresses, as well, for the work that they have done,” Yousafzai shared. “We all know that this was not an easy journey for them, and there are still so many challenges that they have to come across.”
She continued: “I really thank them for the leadership and what they have done and thank them for making it easier for someone like me to enter this industry; a 25-year-old Pakistani Muslim woman who is becoming a producer, as well. So, I really thank them for all that they have done for us, and we will make it easier for the next generation.”
This year, Yousafzai also executive produced the film Joyland, which made history as the first Pakistani film to feature a transgender actress (Alina Khan) in a leading role. Being involved in projects with meaningful messages is important to the Malala Fund founder, as Stranger at the Gate tells the true story of a man who had planned to attack Muslims in America, only to convert to Islam himself after having a change of heart.
“It is a story about the power of compassion, kindness and forgiveness,” she told Us of the film, which lost out to The Elephant Whisperers at the awards ceremony. “These are the values that I believe in, and I hope that the message of this documentary reaches to as many people as possible. I hope that people really question how we have set up, you know, the society around us, and we ensure that there’s no hatred against any individual, any community, and everyone is treated fairly.”
Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner in history at the age of 17 in October 2014. She began making waves in 2009 when she detailed what life was like in Pakistan under Taliban occupation in a first-person account published by the BBC. Though she wrote the piece under a pseudonym, she was publicly identified by her father in December 2009. She was also the subject of a New York Times documentary, which further shined a light on her work to improve girls’ education in her home country.
Years later, she was shot in the head at the age of 15 on her school bus by a Taliban member in October 2012. She and her father continued to receive death threats from the terrorist group after she was transferred to the U.K. for recovery after a botched operation.
“The thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed,” she said during a powerful speech at the U.N. in July 2013. “And out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”
With reporting by Hannah Kahn