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Malala Fund welcomes 22 advocates as Education Champions and expands into Ethiopia

<p>Courtesy of Yasmin Velloso for Malala Fund</p>

Courtesy of Yasmin Velloso for Malala Fund

Malala Fund’s Education Champion Network invests in local leaders to accelerate progress towards girls’ secondary education around the world.

Malala Fund is proud to welcome 22 new advocates from six countries into the Education Champion Network, the largest new cohort since the programme launched in 2017. This year also marks the Education Champion Network’s expansion into Ethiopia.

Malala Fund’s Education Champion Network invests in local leaders to accelerate progress towards girls’ secondary education around the world. These individuals best understand the needs of girls in their community, the barriers that keep them out of school and how to overcome these obstacles. Malala Fund believes we will see more girls in school when educators, activists and their organisations have the resources to advocate for policy and programmatic solutions and hold governments accountable at local, subnational and national levels.

Maliha Khan, Chief Programmes Officer at Malala Fund, said: "We launched the Education Champion Network to bolster the work of local activists. As individuals and collectives, these Champions are making progress for girls at local, state and national levels. As COVID-19 threatens to force millions more girls out of school, Champion-led programmes and advocacy work is now even more important. We are proud to welcome this cohort of innovative advocates into our network, as well as expand our support in sub-Saharan Africa with our first Ethiopian Champions.

The Education Champion Network now supports 58 advocates working across Afghanistan, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey. Meet the 2020 cohort of Education Champions:


Paula Ferreira da Silva, Advisor, Centro Dom Helder Camara de Estudos e Ação Social (CENDHEC)‍

For the past 18 years, Paula has worked with local education and youth activism organisations in Recife, Brazil. With her Malala Fund grant, Paula will research gender discrimination at the nine public schools with the highest dropout rates in Camaragibe, Recife and Igarassu municipalities. Centro Dom Helder Camara de Estudos e Ação Social (CENDHEC) will then publish the findings and use the data to convince the local government officials to establish programmes to combat gender inequality in their schools. CENDHEC will also share their findings through public seminars, local media and digital campaigns.

Cássia Jane Souza, Project Coordinator, Centro das Mulheres do Cabo (CMC)‍

In the city of Cabo de Santo Agostinho, poverty and teen pregnancy force girls to drop out of school and join the labour force to support their families. With her Malala Fund grant, Cassia will train adolescent girls in data collection and analysis so they can document the reasons girls drop out of public schools in Cabo de Santo Agostinho. Cassia and Centro das Mulheres do Cabo (CMC) will then teach girls public speaking and media skills so that they can address the findings from their research through advocacy campaigns and on CMC’s radio programme, Radio Mulher.

Andréia Martins de Oliveira Santo, Project Coordinator, Redes da Mare‍

For the last 20 years, Andréia has worked as an educator, researcher and project coordinator at Redes da Maré. With her Malala Fund grant, Andréia will advocate for the Maré Municipal Education Department to implement a policy that ensures schools make up for the days lost due to gang violence. She will also work with local government departments to identify the reasons girls drop out early. Andréia will then use this research to present a proposal to the municipal government to create a local education office in Maré focused on increasing enrolment and retention rates. Andréia and Redes da Maré will also conduct community-level girls’ education awareness campaigns, encouraging families to send girls to school.

Benilda Regina Paiva De Brito, Human Rights Program Coordinator, Odara Instituto Da Mulher Negra

Benilda is a prominent human rights activist and speaker in Brazil. At Odara Institute da Mulher Negra, she uses her expertise to raise awareness about racial discrimination and challenges faced by Black girls in public schools. With the grant, Benilda will research the barriers to girls’ education in northeastern Brazil and hear from girls about the issues they face in school. She will use that evidence to advocate for policies to improve girls’ enrolment rates. Benilda will also build a network of civil society organisations and government officials to improve education access for girls.


Getaalem Kassa, Executive Director, Hiwot Ethiopia 

An older brother to five sisters, Getaalem began advocating for girls’ education when he recognised how closely connected the issue was to improving his community’s health. In 1995, Getaalem co-founded Hiwot Ethiopia, an organisation that has evolved into a leading national authority on youth issues, particularly in the role that men and boys have in advocating for the girls’ and women’s rights. With his Malala Fund grant, Getaalem will work with Hiwot Ethiopia to promote gender equality and end gender-based violence through radio programmes, advocacy workshops, community outreach and social media.

Amsale Mulugeta, Executive Director, Education for Sustainable Development

Overcrowded classes, unsatisfactory bathrooms, lack of textbooks and low-performing teachers in Ethiopia’s schools create inadequate learning conditions for girls. As Executive Director for Education for Sustainable Development, Amsale works to help girls stay in school by creating more conducive learning environments and combatting child marriage. With her Malala Fund grant, Amsale will devise community action plans for governments, communities and religious institutions to address barriers to education, such as enacting laws that restrict child marriage.

Martha Nemara Woyessa, Executive Director, Women Empowerment Action (WE-Action)

A former teacher, Martha knows the challenges Ethiopian girls face in finishing their education. Schools are not attentive to the needs of female students and many girls struggling to keep up with their studies eventually drop out. With her Malala Fund grant, Martha will work with schools and local governments to end gender-based violence and improve education quality and learning environments. 100 high school girls will participate in WE-Action’s training programme and learn to advocate for their education. As part of the Ethiopian chapter of the Education Champion Network, Martha will elevate her grassroots advocacy initiatives and promote national initiatives to improve education standards for girls.


Aheli Chowdhury, Director, Joint Operation For Society (JOSH)

As co-founder and director of the Joint Operation for Social Help (JOSH), Aheli helps students take action on the issues affecting their communities. With her Malala Fund grant, Aheli will monitor and analyse the implementation of government girls’ education projects in the districts of Hardoi, Rae Bareli and Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh to see where there are funding, institutional or systemic blockages. After studying 10 schools in each district, she will organise campaigns to remove these bureaucratic barriers so that government projects and funding can better support out-of-school girls.

Raju Kumar Narzary, Executive Director, North East Research & Social Work Networking (NERSWN) and Digambar Narzary, Founder Trustee, Nedan Foundation

To help improve girls’ learning outcomes in northeast India, Malala Fund Education Champions Raju and Digambar will work on a joint project in the two districts most affected by floods and ethnic conflict: Dhubri and Kokrajhar. With their Malala Fund grant, they will gather data on girls' enrolment and use it to persuade local, state and national officials to increase funding for education and expand the Right to Education Act to guarantee that all children can learn for free through grade 12.

In 250 villages in the region, Raju and Digambar will establish clubs that offer remedial classes, life skills training and advocacy workshops to out-of-school girls or girls at risk of dropping out. Raju and Digambar will also organise and train 250 community groups and 200 school management committees to monitor local schools and ensure local learning environments are safe for girls.

Gurkirrat “Kirrat” Sachdeva, Head of Programmes, Youth Ki Awaaz (YKA)

As the Head of Programs for Youth Ki Awaaz (YKA), Gurkirrat designs digital campaigns and builds data mobilisation efforts for India’s largest social justice media platform for young people. With her Malala Fund grant, Gurkirrat will launch a YKA fellowship for 75 young activists who are passionate about girls’ education in India. YKA will train these activists to harness the power of community-driven storytelling to raise awareness about the barriers girls face in accessing education. YKA will also create a national digital campaign to advocate for full implementation of the Right to Education Act and its extension for another 18 years.

Kumar Shailabh, Co-Director, HAQ Centre for Childs’ Rights

To improve girls’ enrolment and hold leaders accountable to their commitments to girls, Shailabh is working to make state and local budgets more transparent to the public. With his Malala Fund grant, he will gather data from Assam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh — states with large numbers of out-of-school girls — and use that information to build an interactive digital tracker that will highlight funding gaps in girls' education. By presenting the data in an accessible way, Kumar aims to normalise spending tracking in those states and convince leaders to ensure future funding reaches the most marginalised girls.


Hamzat “Hamzy” Bala Lawal, Founder and CEO, Connected Development Initiative (CODE)

30-year-old Hamzy is an accomplished advocate, data analyst and media commentator who can bring national attention to social issues across Nigeria. In 2012, he founded Connected Development (CODE), an organisation that uses open data and technology to increase government accountability. With his Malala Fund grant, Hamzy will use CODE’s Follow The Money model to train and launch citizen-led teams — composed of students, development workers and volunteers — to identify barriers to girls’ education in Adamawa state in northeastern Nigeria. Hamzy’s team will track the state government’s spending on education and encourage state officials to invest in gender-responsive school infrastructure.

Benjamin John, Programs Manager, Restoration of Hope Initiative (ROHI)

As program manager at Restoration of Hope Initiative, Benjamin leads advocacy for the adoption of the Safe Schools Declaration (SSD) in Adamawa and Borno state. With his Malala Fund grant, Benjamin will advocate for Adamawa and Borno states to sign the SSD and create guidelines for its implementation at the state level. Restoration of Hope Initiative (ROHI) will also train state level officials on the SSD guidelines and establish SSD desks in the state governments. If passed into law in Adamawa and Borno, the SSD has the potential to make schools safer for over 372,000 girls.

Olabukunola “Buky” Williams, Executive Director, Education as a Vaccine (EVA)

Buky is the executive director at Education as a Vaccine (EVA), a nonprofit that works with girls to teach them how to tell their stories, advocate for their rights and hold governments accountable for policies that impact youth in Nigeria. Using her Malala Fund grant, Buky will mobilise girls and community leaders to conduct a state-wide campaign for the implementation of free secondary girls’ education in Kaduna state. EVA will also train girls to use social media and radio to share personal stories about girls’ education. If successful, the implementation of free education in Kaduna state will benefit an estimated 691,000 girls.


Sayyeda Numrah Bokhari, Lecturer, Durbeen

As a lecturer at the nonprofit Durbeen, Numrah trains female teachers in Karachi to improve the quality of education in public schools. With her Malala Fund grant, Numrah will assess how well Durbeen’s teacher training programme is improving students’ learning outcomes. This data will inform a state-wide advocacy campaign that aims to prove to leaders how critical trained teachers are in improving girls’ secondary school enrolment rates. The campaign will also push for the government to require all teachers to have a bachelor’s degree in education.

Lalah Rukh, Founder, Science Fuse

An educator trained in molecular biology and biotechnology, Lalah founded Science Fuse to make quality science education accessible to marginalised students in Punjab. With her Malala Fund grant, Lalah will lobby the provincial government to fund science clubs and fairs at public schools. To convince leaders and challenge social biases against girls in STEM, Lalah will lead a social media campaign featuring videos showcasing young female scientists and science teachers from across Pakistan. She’ll also organise science shows, workshops and fairs, as well as meetups and storytelling sessions with female scientists in four government girls’ schools in Lahore, Kasur and Sheikhupura.

Madiha Rehman, Director of Programs, AzCorp Entertainment

With her grant, Madiha will oversee a campaign to teach girls in Karachi, Sukkur and Khairpur to advocate for their education through storytelling. During two-day workshops, Madiha will teach 4,000 girls and educators about problem solving, storytelling and issues around girls’ education. Following these workshops, girls will then write original stories based on their lives. AzCorp will publish select stories from the workshop as comic books, which they will distribute to local schools. Madiha will also use these comics to advocate for policy changes that support girls’ education.

Partab Rai Shivani, CEO, Thar Education Alliance

As an educator and CEO of Thar Education Alliance, Partab works to secure the government funding needed to improve learning outcomes for girls in Tharparkar. With his Malala Fund grant, Partab will advocate for district and provincial leaders to allocate more funding to girls’ education. To lead this campaign across the district, Partab will recruit and train 50 female students ages 18-35 in advocacy techniques. These young women will meet with teachers and host community conversations to discuss the importance of girls’ education and what needs to change. They will also organise science and math activities for girls to help expose them to those subjects.


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