‘He named me Malala’: the girls fighting for an education | ActionAid UK

The story of Pakistani schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai, struck a chord with the world when she was attacked by the Taliban in 2009 for simply speaking out on girls’ right to education. 

Today the film He named me Malala will be screened across cinemas in the UK. It looks at Malala's life, her relationship with her father and what drove her courage to fight for an issue she so deeply believed in.

As we celebrate Malala’s journey and continue to be inspired by the impact she has had on the world, it’s important to remember that with 35 million girls still out of school, the fight is not over. 

It isn’t until every child has access to education and can go to school without fear of violence that we can celebrate. Until then, let’s continue to be inspired by girls like Malala, and fight for those whose voices should be heard.

Meet Rose and Sona, just two of those 35 million girls who desperately want an education but were prevented from going to school simply because they are girls.

FGM stopped me from going to school

Rose, 16, lives in West Pokot, Kenya and was unable to go to school when, at 13, her father and some uncles tricked her and forcebly took her to have female genital mutilation (FGM), the brutal process in which a girl's clitoris and labia are cut for non-medical reasons. After having FGM girls are usually taken out of school and forced into early marriage.

Immediately after the ceremony, Rose found out she would not be returning to school as her father had arranged a marriage for her with an older man.

Thankfully, Rose recieved support from her uncle. He helped her get back into school, and threatened to report her father to keep him away.

Her mother, who is against FGM and didn't know the cutting was taking place, is now supporting her schooling. Rose is now part of the ActionAid supported girls forum where they advocate against FGM.

I wasn't allowed to go to school because I am a girl

Sona, 17, is a student in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. Under Taliban rule, girls were not allowed to go to school in Afghanistan. She says: “For three years under the Taliban I didn’t study, I had to stay at home."

10 years since British and American forces intervened in Afghanistan

Instead she was taught in secret by her father at home. "When the Taliban left I was very happy to be able to come back to school and study. Things are better now than in the past. I want to be a doctor and I hope I will succeed.”

What ActionAid is doing to help

ActionAid works across the world to help get girls into school. We work with local people to stop FGM, help fund and support communities to build schools, we lobby governments to fulfil their duty to provide better education facilities, and we campaign globally to make sure that education stays high on the international agenda.

Help us support more girls through school

Photos: Jennifer Huxta/Actionaid, Jenny Matthews/ActionAid