by Sofia Silei

Today, some 120 million girls around the world have no access to education. Some do go to school but do not learn anything useful for their future. That is why the Malala Fund has been working for 12 years to promote girls’ education in countries where it is not guaranteed.

The organisation was founded in 2013 by Malala and her father Ziauddin Yousafzai. Together with their board, leadership council, staff and champions, they are creating a more equal world by ensuring that all girls can go to school. As well as promoting education, the Malala Fund is also involved in activism.

In terms of approach, all traditional methods are “erased”. Indeed, inspired by Malala and Ziauddin’s activist roots, the Malala Fund believes that local educators and advocates have the greatest insight, innovation and energy needed to address the barriers that keep girls out of school in their communities.

The Girl Programme gives girls the tools they need to advocate for education and equality in their communities, and a platform for the world to hear their voices. With their support, the Malala Fund aims to create a world where young activists are the protagonists and can break down the barriers that prevent them from achieving their dreams. The Malala Fund works with local partners to address the different laws, beliefs and behaviours that make young women believe they do not deserve the same education as boys.

In addition, the Malala Fund seeks to listen to the voice of each of the girls it serves and has created a platform for young people to speak freely through an assembly, digital publication and newsletter. The organisation supports women’s rehabilitation projects in various countries, such as Ethiopia, which has made great strides in advancing the rights of girls and women over the past decade. The number of children attending primary school has tripled and the country has elected its first female president. But even today, Ethiopian girls are still fighting for fair access to education. Only 25% of girls attend secondary school, and there are no schools in many rural areas. In some cases, girls face sexual abuse and violence within the school environment.

To combat this, the Malala Fund expanded its Education Champion network to Ethiopia in March 2020. Education Champions Martha Nemera Woyessa, Amsale Mulugeta and Getaalem Kassa work in the Amhara region, where over 600,000 girls are out of school. They are building on deep community networks in the region to improve conditions in Ethiopia’s schools, support the implementation and accountability of policies to prevent child marriage, and work in communities to end gender-based violence. Today, the Malala Fund supports 8 Education Champions in Ethiopia who work with community leaders to create safe spaces for girls.

Social and cultural norms, as well as violence, are barriers for children seeking education in the Sidama region, especially young women and girls. Because of these issues, young students need not only basic needs such as quality education, shelter and nutrition but also access to resources in schools that teach them market skills and prepare them for success after their education.

On the cover photo, a photo of Malala Yousafzai on Espace Léopold in the complex of buildings that houses the European Parliament in Brussels ©TMP – An Instant of Time/