These 5 People Are Championing Education for Girls Around the World

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Access to education is a privilege we often downplay in America. But did you know that more than 130 million girls are out of school worldwide because of challenging factors such as socioeconomic status, gender discrimination, and political conflict? 

Malala Yousafzai was born in Pakistan in 1997 and went to school until the age of 11, when the Taliban regime declared girls could no longer attend school. She inspired many by speaking out against this limitation, but her protests also resulted in an assassination attempt on her life.  

In 2014, she created the Malala Fund, an organization that strives to create a better, more inclusive world where women and girls can learn, lead, and thrive. The Education Champion program, founded by the Malala Fund, is an initiative to support individuals and organizations advocating girls’ education around the world. According to a Malala Fund spokesperson, the fund helps recipients “invest in their work so they can scale their efforts and leverage their collective power to create broader change to make it easier for all girls to learn.” 

Currently, the Education Champion program supports 59 advocates, with projects in Afghanistan, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Turkey. July 12 has been deemed Malala Day, and this week we’re celebrating by sharing the stories of five education champions you should know more about — women and men who are striving to make the world a better place for girls. 

Olabukunola Williams 

OlabukunolaBuky” Williams is the executive director at Education as a Vaccine (EVA), a nonprofit organization working with girls and helping them tell their personal stories, advocate for youth rights, and hold governments accountable for policies that impact youth in Nigeria. 

Using her Malala Fund grant, Williams will create systems and programs that girls and community leaders can use to conduct a state-wide campaign for the implementation of free secondary girls’ education in Kaduna state. If successful, the implementation of free education in Kaduna state will benefit an estimated 691,000 girls.

EVA will also train girls to use social media and radio technology, to share personal stories about girls’ education, and raise awareness for these topics. 

Abubakar Askira


Askira’s focus has been on girls' education for many years. He taught in Borno (a separate state in north-eastern Nigeria), and saw firsthand the challenges girls face to complete their education. Now, as director of programs and administration at Hallmark Leadership Initiative (HALI), Askira is breaking barriers to help girls in northern Nigeria finish secondary school. 

With his grant from Malala Fund, Askira and HALI train community coalition groups to identify the barriers preventing girls from going to school, whether it be a lack of economic support, gender discrimination, parental control, etc. They also meet with families of girls forced out of school by Boko Haram, to discuss the benefits of girls’ education and encourage them to send their children back to school. The cost of enrollment fees, uniforms, shoes, and other school supplies, are covered. This support is sometimes all these families need to help support their daughters’ education and future goals.

Metin Çorabatır

Çorabatır’s past lives include work as a print and TV journalist, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Turkey, and a policy consultant and expert on asylum and migration issues. After seeing the challenges that refugee students face, he founded İltica ve Göç Araştırma Merkezi (İGAM) in 2013. İGAM’s mission is to research asylum and immigration issues in Turkey and to give refugee students better access to education.  

Çorabatır will be supported by his Malala Fund grant to work alongside İGAM and meet with parents in Ankara (the capital), Kilis, and Şanlıurfa to discuss the value of educating girls. They will work with school management to improve the registration processes so it’s easier for refugee girls to enroll. 

İGAM social media campaigns help raise awareness about the barriers preventing refugee girls from learning. I’Mappy, İGAM’s mobile application, also provides students and their families with school enrollment information, study materials for students, and a call button for refugee girls in Ankara who need help convincing their parents to let them go back to school.

Lalah Rukh

An educator trained in molecular biology and biotechnology, Rukh wants to engage more girls in STEM education. In 2016, she founded Science Fuse, a SOCIAL ENTERPRISE working to make science education accessible to underserved students in Punjab, Pakistan. By holding science workshops and advocating for local policy changes, Rukh hopes to challenge social norms that keep girls from pursuing STEM careers. 

Today, the work Rukh and Science Fuse have done has reached more than 30,000 students. With her Malala Fund grant, Rukh 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, Rukh will lead a social media campaign featuring videos showcasing young female scientists and science teachers from across Pakistan. She’ll also organize 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.

Rogério Barata

For the past 25 years, Barata has fought for the rights of underserved communities in various regions of Brazil. As an educator and activist, he has many years of experience training teachers on ethnic-racial relations, helping Indigenous and quilombola communities access education, and researching the impact of poverty and exclusion on education. As a consultant on educational and cultural projects at Centro de Cultura Luiz Freire (CCLF), he conducts research to improve the quality of schools in urban, quilombola, and Indigenous communities. 

His Malala Fund grant makes it possible for him to work with local leaders, quilombola girls, and state and local authorities, to pass municipal guidelines for education in quilombola communities in the city of Mirandiba. If adopted, these guidelines will impact quilombola students across Mirandiba and provide a model for advocates around the country working to develop contextualized education for quilombola populations. Barata also trains girls, teachers, and local leaders to advocate for girls’ education. 

Tags: Social Justice, Groundbreaking Women, Courage, Empowerment

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Written By

Katka Lapelosová

Katka is a writer from New York City, currently living in Belgrade, Serbia. See Full Bio

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