Malala Yousafzai has turned her hand to filmmaking as activism.
In a Sky News broadcast exclusive, the Nobel Peace Prize winner said that her “next phase” of human rights work needed to include “storytelling”.
Malala said: “Activism needs to go beyond working for an NGO.
“We need to find other ways in which we challenge the social norms that deny women their basic rights, their dignity.
“The screen helps us to connect with people and helps us be more tolerant towards others.”
Malala is the executive producer of Joyland. This Oscar-longlisted queer love story, directed by Saim Sadiq, explores transgender themes in Pakistan, a strict Islamic republic.
Creating safe spaces for all women is fundamental to Malala’s human rights mission.
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In 2012, when she was 15, she was shot in the head by the Taliban while she was campaigning for girls’ schooling in Pakistan.
Malala was treated in Birmingham for her injuries.
She then attended Edgbaston High School, before going on to study politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford.
In 2014 she became the youngest individual to ever be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Even after her ordeal, Malala refused to be silenced – and instead fought harder. She set up an NGO called Malala’s Fund, using her influence to champion the rights of all women around the globe.
‘Everyone’s story is important’
Now 25, Malala told Sky News: “I’m so grateful that Saim made sure the trans role was played by a trans woman. This was critical.
“This in itself is a huge accomplishment for Pakistan to make sure everyone gets the chance to make it to the screen.
“Everyone’s story is important. Everyone’s story deserves to be told by them. And a trans person should be given the rights that everybody else is given.
“What is really unfortunate is how we don’t want people to talk about issues, how we don’t want these stories to make it to the screen. I hope that we challenge that.”
Joyland attempts to do just that. It is the first major Pakistani motion picture to feature a trans actor in a lead role.
Despite being Pakistan’s Oscars contender, the country’s government banned the film in August, after increasing pressure from hardline Islamic groups that called it “repugnant” and “highly objectionable”.
Mushtaq Ahmad Khan, a senator in the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, said: “Glamorising transgenders in Pakistan, as well as their love affairs, is a direct attack on our beliefs.”
Amnesty International said the ban was “censorship” and represented a “crackdown of freedom of expression”.
The decision was overturned mid-November, and now the film is available – with some edits – across the country, bar Punjab, where the film is set.
Director Saim Sadiq, 31, told Sky News the film “turned out to be a big act of resistance”.
“I realised when the film was being released, that there are a lot of people who are very uncomfortable with just the existence of this film,” he said.
“Banning the film is perhaps the fastest way to make the activism work and to get everybody to talk about the issues we want them to talk about.”
Joyland is out now in UK cinemas.