Malala shares why
was’cautious’ about
marriage in the past

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LONDON: Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai recently revealed the reason for her cautiousness towards the institution of marriage and how her best friend — and now partner — Asser Malik made it seem more fulfilling than she thought it would be.

Pakistani Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai poses with her husband Asar Malik on their wedding day in their home in Birmingham Tuesday (on November 9, 2021).

In an essay for British Vogue, the 24-year-old shared why she was hesitant about the notion of marriage and how her ‘best friend’ helped her embrace it. For her, her hesitancy never stemmed from being against the institution entirely. Rather it was its ‘patriarchal roots’ that made her question it. “I questioned the patriarchal roots of the institution, the compromises women are expected to make after the wedding, and how laws regarding relationships are influenced by cultural norms and misogyny in many corners of the world. I feared losing my humanity, my independence, my womanhood — my solution was to avoid getting married at all.”

Malala Yousafzai poses with her husband Asar Malik on their wedding day in their home in Birmingham Tuesday.

Malala’s fears in relation to marriage were reinforced by the experiences of women around her. “Many girls I grew up with were married even before they had the opportunity to decide on a career for themselves,” she said. “One friend had a child when she was just 14 years old. Some girls dropped out of education because their families could not afford to send them to school; some started school but didn’t do well enough to meet their families’ expectations. Their parents decided their education was not worth the cost. For these girls, marriage means their lives are deemed a failure. They’re still school-age, but they already know they’ll never get the chance to achieve their dreams.”

In an interview to British Vogue in June, the Nobel laureate had admitted that marriage might not be for her. She expanded on this thought in her essay and said that she’d responded like she had “so many times before”. “Knowing the dark reality many of my sisters face, I found it hard to think of the concept of marriage. I said what I had so often said before – that maybe it was possible that marriage was not for me.”

She doesn’t believe the institution of marriage is a lost cause though, a belief that was strengthened by the help of friends, mentors and now partner Malik. “With education, awareness and empowerment, we can start to redefine the concept of marriage and the structure of relationships, along with many other social norms and practices,” she wrote. “Culture is made by people — and people can change it too. My conversations with my friends, mentors and my now partner Asser helped me consider how I could have a relationship — a marriage — and remain true to my values of equality, fairness and integrity.

Asar Malik signing the ‘Nikah Nama’ in presence of Malala and the Imam on Tuesday.

Malala also dished out the details on how she met her partner in marriage in the summer of 2018. “Asser was visiting friends at Oxford and we crossed paths,” she wrote. “He worked in cricket, so I immediately had a lot to discuss with him. He liked my sense of humour. We became best friends. We found we had common values and enjoyed each other’s company. We stood by each other in moments of happiness and disappointment. Through our individual ups and downs, we talked and listened to each other. And when words failed, I sent him a link to our horoscope compatibility, hoping the stars could help reinforce our connection.”

She says she found her best and companion in Malik. “I still don’t have all the answers for the challenges facing women — but I believe that I can enjoy friendship, love and equality in marriage. So, on Tuesday, November 9, we celebrated our nikkah at home with our families and closest friends in Birmingham.

Group pictures shows Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala Yousufzai, Asar Malik and Toor Pekai Yousafzai.

“It was a small affair and group effort. My mother and her friend got my wedding clothes from Lahore, Pakistan. Asser’s mother and sister gave me the jewellery I wore. My father booked the food and decorations. My assistants organised photographers and a make-up artist. My three best girlfriends from school and Oxford took off work and travelled to be there. I put henna on my hands myself, after discovering I was the only one of my family and friends who had the talent! Asser spent several hours in the mall with me the day before the ceremony, buying his pink tie and pocket square and my sandals. My little brothers even wore suits.”