Reese Witherspoon on Malala Yousafzai


On Friday, at Variety’s Power of Women luncheon, Reese Witherspoon spoke about how it was her own 15-year-old daughter Ava who alerted her to the work of Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai. Witherspoon was recognized at the luncheon for her work with Yousafzai’s organization, the Malala Fund. Ironically, Witherspoon was honored at the luncheon on the same day Yousafzai received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Malala’s story had a profound impact on Witherspoon. An outspoken teenager in favor of the right to an education for all females, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan on her way to school in 2012. She has been recovering in London ever since with her family by her side and has continued her activism, speaking at the United Nations and, on Friday, becoming the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Witherspoon said that she finds the lack of opportunities for women in some areas of the world “incompressible.” Since learning of Malala’s story, she and her daughter met with the teenage activist. Witherspoon described Yousafazai as funny, well-spoken and marveled at her young age. “She’s only just begun,” Witherspoon said. She also marveled at how normal she is and described how her daughter Ava and Malala talked about homework and school and their life goals. The Oscar winner said at the age of 14 she was worried about impressing casting directors, but when Malala was 14 she was fighting for girls’ rights to an education and speaking out against a regime that seeks to oppress women and girls.

Reese Witherspoon referred to Malala Yousafzai as her “role model” and, like any fan, Reese appears to gush over the activist on social media. When Reese learned that Malala won the Nobel Peace Prize she tweeted “A huge heartfelt congrats to #Malala on winning the #NobelPeacePrize today!!!” She also retweeted a video of Malala speaking about receiving the Nobel Peace Prize as well as other posts promoting the “Day of the Girl,” with the message “We are braver and stronger than you think.” After meeting Malala in August of this year, the actress posted a picture to social media of her and Malala. The caption read “What an honor to meet and have dinner with Malala Yousafzia. Thank you for your work on behalf of women everywhere,” and she added the hashtags #inspiringwoman #womensrights #educationforallgirls.

Reese Witherspoon is not the only celebrity in awe of the teenage activist. Justin Bieber excitedly shared on social media last week that he got to FaceTime with Malala. He noted the young woman’s incredible story and how he looks forward to learning what he can do to aid the Malala Fund. On Friday, Madonna also gushed on social media over Malala, posting a photo of the teen activist to her Instagram with a caption calling her “My hero!”

At the Power of Women luncheon, Reese was honored along with Jennifer Lopez, Viola Davis, Jane Fonda and Donna Langley, chairman of Universal Pictures. When she is not being honored at luncheons or helping to promote the Malala Fund, Reese Witherspoon is keeping busy just like her role model Malala Yousafzai. She served as producer of the film Gone Girl and also took on the tasks of both producing and starring in the upcoming film Wild based on the memoir of Cheryl Strayed, a woman who hiked over 1,100 miles after her divorce and death of her mother.

By Jennifer Fernicola Ronay

Photo by Mingle Media TV – Flickr License

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