It can be challenging to remain positive about the state of the world in 2020, but Malala Yousafzai believes there is a hopeful way forward.
Like the rest of the college graduates this year, the Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner is now embarking on a new phase in her life after completing her studies at Oxford University and entering a world disrupted by a global pandemic.
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Yousafzai, 23, shared how she stays optimistic on TODAY with Hoda & Jenna on Monday as she continues to advocate for young girls' education eight years after surviving being shot in the head by the Pakistani Taliban.
"It is a difficult time I must say," she said. "We are living in a global pandemic right now, extremist views are still there, there's hatred against different races, against diversity, against inclusion, against individual ethnicities and communities, and that does put out a great challenge in front of us.
"Then we have challenges in terms of environment and how we can save the space and the air that we are living in. So it is a difficult time, there are still 130 million girls who are out of school, but I stay hopeful and optimistic because it has to change one day. And I believe that change does not occur itself, somebody has to step out and say something and do something, and that's how change happens. So I'm doing my part, I'm trying to do my best to ensure that we live in a world where every girl can go to school, where every girl has a voice and can learn and lead. And I believe that change is possible, but that requires us to act."
Yousafzai was targeted by militants as a 15-year-old for speaking out in support of girls' education, and was shot in the face while she rode the bus home. She survived after a five-hour operation to remove the bullet and has continued her advocacy for girls' education.
She shared her advice to those raising young girls with Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager, who are each mothers to two daughters.
"Even small words from parents like, 'Well done,' 'We're proud of you,' mean so much to children," she said. "I'm sure your daughters are amazing, just continue supporting them in their dreams, and they should know that they could do anything in the world.
"They can be change-makers, they can be leaders, scientists, teachers, whatever they want to be. It's always ensuring that their belief in themselves remains strong."
With college now crossed off her list, Yousafzai has partnered with the company Literati on a new book club called Fearless, in which she will be sharing books by women with a focus on first-time writers.
"I want to focus on women who are writing their first books because there's a lot of fear and they're scared about how their book would be received, so it is important that we support those first-time writers, that we support young, feminist writers," she said.