Tuesday 12th April 2016
I left work in Oxford early, caught a bus to Headington then on a coach to Victoria and a tube to Westminster. I do go into London quite often, but this day was a bit different to the usual. I was on my way to meet a few ONE youth ambassadors to see a screening of ‘He Named Me Malala’ in Portcullis House and then onto a reception and panel discussion at Speaker’s House. I’d been lucky enough to be asked to speak on the panel about ONE’s current campaign – Poverty is Sexist.
Although the speaking in parliament part was a massive deal, it wasn’t overlooked by the fact that the film was amazing! I’ve looked up to Malala Yousafzai since I read her autobiography ‘I am Malala’ late last year. If you don’t know much about her, she is a Pakistani activist for female education and was the youngest ever Nobel Peace prize winner. Her story is complex (so either read her book or watch the film – or do both) but she was one of the only girls to stand up to the Taliban when they banned girls from going to school in her country. She was then shot by them on her way to school. She miraculously recovered (with the support of some big names, Beyonce included!) and continued campaigning for girls rights to an education. The Malala Fund was set up to enable girls to complete 12 years of safe, quality education so that they can achieve their potential and be positive change-makers in their families and communities.
The film showed how Malala is just a regular girl, going to school, arguing with her little brothers but continually stands up for what she believes in. Her courage has been rewarded with physical awards and unseen respect and impact. She.is.amazing.
After the film we walked through a secret tunnel passageway to the Speaker’s House in the House of Commons. The sun was out and it looked like we walking through a film set, unfortunately we were told strictly no photos were allowed. We walked through to a reception of drinks and canapés and got chatting to the other guests who were mainly from charities or members of parliament.
The panel was hosted by Mark Williams, Welsh Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Ceredigion. Mark Williams is also co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Global Education for All
“For far too many girls around the world, education is still little more than a pipe dream. Globally 200 million children have not completed primary school and around 60 per cent of these are girls.
“The scale of the challenge to provide each of them with a quality education is substantial but, as was shown by Malala, it is a vital one.” – Mark Williams
Soon it was my turn to represent ONE campaign; I was sat with the 3 other women speaking; Philippa Lei, director of policy and advocacy at The Malala Fund, Cate Turton deputy director for youth and education at DFID and Francesca Danmole a representative from Theirworld.
Each person spoke confidently about why and how they were working towards females rights to education.
‘It’s unacceptable that girls everywhere don’t get a full 12 years of education. It gives girls wings to fly.’ – Philippa Lei
‘It’s not just about children’s access to education but their right to education’ – Cate Turton
‘I’m part of a global campaign to make sure all girls get an education’ – Francesca Danmole
When it was my turn to speak I was 95% excited and 5% nervous. That 5% doesn’t usually exist but that’s because I’m normally faced with a crowd of mostly uninterested teenagers – on this occasion I was faced with a very elegant room full of MP’s and charity directors. When it was my turn, I spoke about ONE’s current campaign, Poverty is Sexist.
‘Poverty is sexist. There’s not one place on the planet where it’s better to be a woman than a man.’ – Mary Mandefield
This disturbing statistic is because nowhere on earth do women have as many opportunities.
‘Some 62 million girls are denied the right to education. Half a billion women can’t read. 155 countries still have laws that discriminate against women.’ – ONE campaign
Sometimes the number of women and girls living by the injustice of gender inequality can seem hard to get your head around. Because of this, I spoke about my host sister in Kenya.
‘I was reading I Am Malala while in Kenya & saw girls challenges first hand. I had to tell Malala’s story.’
Stella, who I lived with whilst volunteering in Ngare Ndare last year, is the same age as me. But our present situations and future appear to be very different. As a woman she is expected to prioritise marriage and starting a family over education or a career. She is a wife and a mother whilst I am a still a girl. A girl with a job I enjoy and a future I have control over. FGM, HIV, unstable health, forced relationships and lack of education (which subsequently leads to relying on partners for everyday tasks) are real threats to women and girls all over the world. These problems could quite easily be avoided if our world leaders took a stand to make education for girls a priority.
Educated girls become powerful women. Powerful women lift up a whole community. Gender equality isn’t about women, it’s about all of us.
Malala stood up for her rights and was shot by the Taliban. She wasn’t silenced, whats more, her voice rose louder.
Using your voice can be difficult if you don’t do it often, but it can also be very easy once you start. Emma Watson, Oprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga, Mark Zuckerburg, Bono and Mary J Blige are a few who’ve signed our letter already. And you can too.
Thank you to those fellow ONE youth ambassadors and Billy who were so encouraging and supportive on the evening. I’m so grateful to be part of a group who are so passionate about taking actions to make a change.
Chat about what you’re using your voice for on twitter – @mandefieldx
or Facebook – Girl got lost