On April 12th, 2017, the University of Ottawa and the Faculty of Social Sciences welcomed Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, and her father Ziauddin Yousafzai into its academic family. The Yousafzai family traveled to Canada to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and for Malala to address the Canadian Parliament as she proudly received her honourary Canadian citizenship.
The Faculty of Social Sciences had been interested in connecting with Malala and her father for some time and this visit presented a perfect opportunity for the University of Ottawa to arrange a private meeting and present them both with a honourary doctorate for their inspiring work and contributions as global education activists.
“Our students, professors and researchers, across the social sciences disciplines, devote time and energy to causes that are interwoven into the fabric of education and gender equity” explained Marcel Mérette, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. Indeed, from conflict studies and human rights, to international development, to broader themes touching on global security, education, justice and society, poverty reduction, and on political and economic reform, these issues are at the core of the Faculty’s teaching and learning activities.
For JoAnne St-Gelais, the Faculty of Social Sciences’ Chief Administrative Officer, the university’s decision to confer these degrees is especially meaningful: “In choosing them both as recipients of honourary doctorates from our institution, we publicly recognize and stand by their commitment to education as a means for emancipation and liberation. Our Faculty is proud to have put forward their names for this distinction”.
Through his teaching, Malala’s father Ziauddin is exemplary in his life-long learning and in his courage to break away from patriarchal value systems where women and girls are not deemed worthy of obtaining an education. In turn, through her learning, her activism and advocacy work, Malala is changing the world as a global leader and teacher herself.
To the father-daughter team, Dean Mérette confirmed the alignment of the value they place on education: “We share your vision for a world where all children have safe access to quality education. We look forward to your return to Ottawa and to hosting you on our campus so that you may engage in exchanges with our students. In your courageous fight against oppression and discrimination, I can assure you that you have inspired University of Ottawa students, professors, staff and graduates alike, for generations to come.”