Winter 2016: Malala Fund Team's Response to "Every Girl's Right" Essay Winners

The Malala Fund Team responds to the winners of the Winter 2016 "Every Girl's Right" writing competition.

Dear Edward, Hamna, Dakota, and Kelsi,

It is said that empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.

With this essay contest, you were tasked with empathizing with over 60 million girls who are out of school worldwide. You were asked how it would feel if you were forcibly and indefinitely banned from going to school. When reading your work, it is evident that not only did you see, listen and feel the collective suffering of these girls, your hearts and minds broke wide open for them. Over 60 million times.

You are Shazia. You are Kainat. You are Malala.

We thank you for your passionate understanding, for your brazen voice, for your unabashed stance on this important, life changing issue. Malala says “they thought that the bullet would silence us. But they failed…weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.” Courage in the extreme, and honest self-reflection, were prevalent in these winning essays. You should all be proud of the work you’ve produced, for it will live on in the eyes and ears of those you are advocating for…forever.

Edward, the description of your early school years was poetic and painful. It made us appreciate the indignities and challenges you faced from teachers and classmates. But it’s your courage and determination that shine when you share, “This experience, as difficult as it was, allowed me to know that if my education were taken away from me tomorrow, in a year, or in twenty years, I would find a way to learn.” And you did! Reading library books and doing independent research kept you learning. You have tasted deprivation, and truly understand that education does more than help us survive but “allows us to live a full and successful life.”

Hamna, you dove deep into the shoes of those girls denied an education. As you eloquently stated, “their laughter is just like mine; their happiness as well deserved as anyone’s, their tears as warranted, and their dreams just as significant.” This depth of understanding is what will change people’s perception on the importance of education. Particularly given the current rhetoric in the United States today, the recognition that others’ dreams— no matter their gender, color of their skin, or immigration status—are always just as cogent as our own, is poignant and essential.

Dakota—the rebel with a cause. You said Malala’s “version of rebelling, whether she calls it that or not, was to go to school and learn with passion." We couldn’t agree more. You advocate for others to “spark a personal revolution." Malala’s very clear that her mission is to make sure every person has 12 years of free, safe and quality education, but also she’s passionate that people use their voice to advocate for what they believe in – whatever that may be. Thank you for questioning societal expectations—and thank you for saying, “Nah.”

Kelsi, the honesty with which you reflect upon your past decisions, and your initial dismissal of the importance of education, is admirable. It takes courage to admit to one’s self when it’s time to make a change. Everyone is on their own path, and yours brought you to the conclusion that “knowledge doesn’t only bring you knowledge; it brings you confidence and power."  The amazing accomplishments you’ve achieved with your education demonstrate this notion more powerfully than words can describe. There is a rawness and vulnerability in the way you describe the love for your son and your desire to provide the world for him—you “tuck your purpose into bed every night” and he’s fortunate for it.

Many people take the first step in advocating for global education by simply asking themselves the question, “what if my rights to an education were taken away”? You all took the next step—rather, the next leap, in using the all-powerful pen to speak out for what you believe in. As we like to say at the Malala Fund: You are not silent. You are not invisible.

You spoke out, setting your words on fire. When we stand together, we do not stand alone. Thank you for standing with Shazia, Kainat and Malala to support girls’ education globally.



Malala Fund Team

P.S. This month the Malala Fund is asking students like you to help us urge world leaders to provide the funding needed to ensure all girls can go to school. To learn more about how to join us in advocating for girls’ education, visit our website at




























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