Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai Encourages Women to Celebrate Themselves on International Women's Day
"We still have a lot to fight for, but it's also a moment to be proud of what we have already done," Malala Yousafzai said
On Monday's episode of the new PEOPLE Every Day podcast, hosted by Janine Rubenstein, Yousafzai, 23, urged women to celebrate themselves on the annual holiday, especially amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"I just want to thank all the women for all their incredible work," Yousafzai said. "And I would want to remind them that just take a bit of a break, enjoy this day, celebrate this day, just be proud of all that you have achieved in your life."
"So many girls and women are right now, they're at home. They're doing their studies online, or they are looking after their family or they're managing their work plus their family being in one house and just coping with all of what is going on," she continued. "So I just want to remind you that look after yourself, take a break and just celebrate all that you have done in your life."
"We still have a lot to fight for, but it's also a moment to be proud of what we have already done," Yousafzai added.
Yousafzai is no stranger to celebrating women's accomplishments and fighting for equality.
On Oct. 9, 2012, Taliban gunmen opened fire on her school bus, striking Yousafzai in the head. She was airlifted from Pakistan to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, where she made a miraculous recovery.
Despite the injury, Yousafzai never stopped fighting for women to have the right to an education. At just 17, the Pakistani activist won the Nobel Peace Prize for championing girls' education.
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In addition, Yousafzai released her memoir, I Am Malala, and was the subject of a documentary, He Named Me Malala. In both, she detailed her journey after being shot while fighting for women's rights and education.
Yousafzai also established the Malala Fund, which invests in education programs to help girls go to school and reach their full potential.
She also announced a deal Monday with Apple TV+ to produce shows in a variety of genres for the streaming network; on the podcast, she said "I hope we reach out to young women and girls through this, but I'm also hoping that people of all ages will join and enjoy these shows."
And the recent Oxford graduate said that even a Nobel laureate turns to silly TV to decompress sometimes: "Just like everybody else, I also need a break to just focus on a show like Big Bang Theory, Girlfriends or Ted Lasso," she said. "These are things that just keep you sort of happy for a second. It helps you just to escape from all of the problems that are there outside."
(She even bantered with Apple CEO Tim Cook on Twitter about the announcement of their partnership, asking for a first look at season two of Ted Lasso now that she's part of the family.)
Yousafzai raved about her time at Oxford and the friendships she made there, and expressed disappointment at having to be among the virtual graduates of 2020. But she also hasn't let setbacks amid a global health crisis stop her from continuing her mission.
"We're seeing huge progress in the education of girls, but then there's a pandemic and things have become more difficult," she explained on PEOPLE Every Day. "The girls are at home and Malala Fund did research that shows that 20 million more girls are at risk of losing their education."
"But what really gives me hope is the stories of these young girls, how they are not giving up, and they're still fighting for their rights to have their education," she added. "And that's what gives me inspiration and hope for the future."
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Despite the pandemic-related setbacks, Yousafzai said she believes she has come this far for a reason and is more determined than ever to be a voice for women.
"The terrorists wanted to silence me forever... and it just did not succeed," she said on the podcast. "The bullet went so close to the brain, and if you still survive from such an incident, you realize that maybe you're here for a reason. That this is a second life and you're here for a purpose."
"For me, that was the education of girls. I was one of the girls whose education was taken away from her," she continued. "But now, I have the opportunity to speak for girls globally. There are 130 million girls who cannot go to school. It's the story of these girls that inspires me, that keeps me going to keep on fighting for girls' education. So, this has become part of my life now."