Speaking in Parliament for ONE campaign

campaigns, Uncategorized

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.

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Portcullis house – photo: the telegraph

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.

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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

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inside Speaker’s House – photo: lemberth.co.uk

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

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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. 

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‘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.’ 

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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.

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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.

Mary x

Chat about what you’re using your voice for on twitter – @mandefieldx

or Facebook – Girl got lost

#ONEyouth2016

#withmalala

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my host mum, sister & ONE campaign material. – follow me on instagram – @girlgotlost_

20 thoughts I’ve had since returning from Kenya

Africa

We returned from Kenya about a week agoooo and as always I’m having some reverse culture shock now I’m in little old Welwyn Garden City. It probably doesn’t help that I’ve gone to London about 6 of the 7 days that I’ve been back. Cue long escalators down to the tube (it’s surprisngly difficult get on an escalator after not being on for so long) and hoards of Christmas shoppers coming at me like an angry army.

These are some of the thoughts I’ve had since returning from Kenya;

1. language – I can’t say my normal ‘asante sana’ ‘pole’ ‘tuannai’ etc etc. I’ve had lots of weird looks as I’ve come out with ‘asanthank you’ to the guy who held the door open for me.

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2. Where has the sun gone? Seriously, it’s dark when I wake up, it’s dark when I leave for work (OK I don’t have a job yet  but you know what I mean; interviews/seeing my friends/wondering around Selfridges wishing I was rich), it’s dark when I get home. It’s practically dark by time I have my lunch. Who stole the sun? 😦

3. I have so much stuff. So many resources. Why am I not doing business? How do I complain about having nothing to wear when I have so much.

4. I can wash my clothes in a machine. On the flip side, I can’t just dry my things outside for an hour or two, I actually have to wait a full day.

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5. I can have a shower with heat options and everything. To be fair, I loved our bucket showers back in Kenya but it is pretty cool to just press a button and have hot, running water. Gone are the days of heating rain water over a fire. Oh and shower gel. No more dried up soap, actual fruity, foamy shower gel. What a time to be alive!

6. I can hear about world news, not just what’s going on in East Africa. Not that great because most of the news is depressing but whatevs.

7. Everyone looks like a moody bastard. But maybe that’s not UK specific, more of a London thing.

8. Why cant I get lunch for 50 bob? Wheres the cabbage and chapati? Also, totally craving street cake and pineapple slices.

9. Sanitary adverts here are so dull. Check out Always in Africa –


10. I want to talk to every black person I see. ‘what tribe you from babes???’ ‘Habari gani huns?!’ – I must remember that not every person with brown skin wants to be my mate. Not every black person is from Kenya…

11. There is so much food in the shops. Any food you could ever want (except chapati and cabbage). I spend 40% of my time standing in the aisles like whaaaaaat should I get. Even the choice of drinks is crazy. I’m not used to having more than 2 options. So overwhelmed waaaaa.

12. And all those things cost like 10 times more than they did a week ago.

13. Christmas lights and decorations everywhere. It’s all anyone can talk about. Don’t really get the hype.

14. I have my own room and privacy and now cows outside my window waking me up at 5:30am

15. It. is. FREEZING.

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16. New music!!!! I don’t know a lot of new artists and am a bit confused why everyone’s loving Justin Bieber all of a sudden but still. New music to my eaaaars!

17. No one shouts ‘Mzungu!’ (white person) as I walk down the street?! Street kids don’t harass me (I actually miss the kids loads and loads) and I don’t have to shake hands to greet every single person I meet. Happy days.

18. There is zero choice of tacky posters to buy on the street. And that makes me sad.

19. There’s plenty of excess room on public transport. Nothing will ever compare to our squished matatu journeys home; I’m talking 22 people stuffed onto a 16 seater minibus. Having personal space is not an option.

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20. It’s just not Africa. After a combined almost 2 years in Africa since 2012 coming back to the UK just doesn’t feel like home anymore.Not sure if I’ll ever shake that feeling! sob sob.

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