The Gender Inequality Index ranks Pakistan a lowly 150th out of 160 participating countries. The United States is ranked thirteenth, so the status of women varies enormously between the two nations. Although America ranks much higher than Pakistan, it is not even in the top ten, so it is obviously an imperfect paradigm for gender equality.
Born in Pakistan in 1997, Malala Yousafzai was nearly murdered at the age of fifteen by an extremist who opposed girls' education. Malala had made a name for herself by speaking for Pakistani girls' right to an education. After her recovery from near-fatal wounds, she continued her campaign from abroad. In 2014, she won the Nobel Prize.
Malala states, “In Pakistan when women say they want independence, people think this means we don't want to obey our fathers, brothers or husbands . . . [but] It means we want to make decisions for ourselves." She is challenging the idea that the movement for women's liberation is rooted in disrespect for all men. Malala is a staunch proponent of women's rights and personal freedoms. Another quote from Malala along these lines is the following: "I believe it's a woman's right to decide what she wants to wear and if a woman can go to the beach and wear nothing, then why can't she also wear everything?"
Pakistan is an extremely conservative Islamic nation. In her memoir, Malala does not want to sound like an extremist. Also, she has great respect for her father, which might be why she emphasizes that women don't necessarily want to disobey men. In other words, it is important to put her words in the context of her ultra-conservative nation. In view of her tragic personal history, her caution is understandable.