Malala Yousafzai is an icon of female empowerment. The youngest Nobel Laureate in history, the 20-year-old Pakistani activist has inspired people with her tenacious belief in the power of education. It’s a conviction so strong that she risked her life to attend school in a Taliban-dominated region of Pakistan, blogging about her experiences and granting interviews. In response, she was shot in a 2012 assassination attempt.
Emily Blunt says beneath Yousafzai’s steely persona beats the heart of a teenage girl.
“People are intimidated to meet her,” says Blunt. “They feel not worthy. Yet there’s a normalcy to her. She’s sweet and subversive and bright, but at the same time, there’s this side where she loves shoes and she loves clothes.”
Blunt, star of such hit films as “Sicario” and “Into the Woods,” along with her husband, John Krasinski of “The Office” fame, aren’t just admirers of Yousafzai, who recovered fully from the attempt on her life to become a globally recognized education advocate. They’re using their celebrity to draw attention to her cause and to raise money for Malala Fund, the nonprofit she founded in 2013 with her father, Ziauddin. The fund hopes to give girls around the world the ability to have 12 years of education — schooling that is free, safe and of good quality.
The issue hits close to home for Blunt and Krasinski, who have two daughters, ages 4 and 2, and had been looking to get involved with a charity that promoted education and women’s issues.
“From the first time we met, I knew Emily would be a great friend to me and to all girls fighting for their education,” says Yousafzai. “I am so grateful for her ability to see the faces of millions of girls in her own daughters.”
So far, Blunt and Krasinski have raised money for the fund by auctioning off a double date to the New York premiere of their film “A Quiet Place.” In the fall, the couple hopes to visit Colombia or India to see Malala Fund’s work firsthand. Those are new regions for the organization. Until now, it has focused on supporting educators and educational champions in places where it is difficult for girls to attend school, such as Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and countries hosting Syrian refugees.
Blunt has been receiving reports from the field from Yousafzai.
“When Malala goes back to the communities it’s so exciting because women are at the front of the crowd,” says the actress. “They’re telling you how they’re organizing. They’re telling you what’s happening. As we’re finding out in this climate that we’re living in, when women are given their voice they will use it.”