Meeting Malala: World Vision Youth Volunteers On Empowering Girls

Malala Yousafzai is a name that, by now, should need no introduction. The youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate, and a courageous champion for girls' right to education, she is a hero to girls everywhere.

On Wednesday, April 12, Prime Minister Trudeau will confer Canadian citizenship on Malala. For young women across the country, it will be a moment of pride and hope.

And that's not all Canada is doing. It’s a tall order, but Canada and the world are committed to delivering quality education for all children by 2030.

This is a change that is desperately needed Approximately 124 million children around the world are out of school, 30% of them in conflict zones. And girls face an even harsher reality. In 2013, 1 in 10 girls were out of school, compared to 1 in 12 boys.

Cultural norms, poverty, safety, and hygiene issues are all factors in preventing girls and young women from getting the education that is their right. Not all girls have fathers like Malala’s, who believe in their daughter’s potential.

But because of young activists like Malala, that is changing. World Vision is proud to support young people who believe they can change the reality of children around the world. We’re sending nine of them- young women from diverse backgrounds- to hear Malala address Parliament, as guests of the government of Canada.

We’d like to introduce you to some of these special young women.

Meghan Tennant

Age: 21

Hometown: London, Ontario

How has Malala inspired you in your volunteer work?

Malala is an inspiration to young women everywhere. In 2012 when news broke of a young girl who was shot for speaking out & defending girls right to education, the story really struck me. Hearing more about Malala and her activism from a young age has given me hope & reminds me that not everyone, especially girls, have the same rights as we do here in Canada. This inspires me to continue volunteering, advocating and donating what I can. I sponsor a child named Agnes in Kenya who loves to go to school, and I hope we can one day have a world where girls everywhere have access to education and enjoy attending.

What difference has access to education made in your life?

Access to education has opened many doors for me. I have completed an undergraduate degree at GuelphU and I am attending Continuing Studies at WesternU this fall. Education has provided me with numerous skills, it has lead me to different jobs, helped me figure out my career goals & dreams - and overall shaped who I am today.

Tell us about your dreams for the future of girls around the world:

My hope and dream is that one day young women all over the world will have fair and safe access to education. I also hope that one day women receive equal pay for equal work. I hope that Malala's story continues to be an inspiration for years to come and that young women all over the planet can feel safe speaking up & defending their basic human rights.

Catherine Johnston    

Age: 26

Hometown: Montreal, Quebec

How has Malala inspired you in your volunteer work?

Malala is probably the most inspirational young woman on earth, and has pushed me to complete my Masters degree in Anthropology. I have been extremely privileged to have access to great education, and therefore never took it for granted, as most young girls were not as lucky. Malala is a constant reminder that women should fight for their rights to equal access to education, and has led me to working with World Vision Canada, and empowering other young Canadians.  

What difference has access to education made in your life?

Access to education has allowed me to work for a great organization like World Vision Canada, and speak on behalf of the most vulnerable communities across the globe. It has given me the opportunity to fight for those who still don’t have access to adequate education across the globe.

Tell us about your dreams for the future of girls around the world:

My dream for the future of girls around the world is that they all get the same opportunities to access great education. I also wish that girls could have equal wages as their (male) counterparts across the globe.

Kyra in Cambodia
Kyra in Cambodia

Kyra Tudlong

Age: 21

Hometown: Markham, Ontario

How has Malala inspired you in your volunteer work?

She has proved how influential young women can be in standing up for what they believe in. If she has the courage and strength to speak up against the wrongs of the world, then there is nothing stopping me in supporting initiatives that empower others.

What difference has access to education made in your life?

Without education I wouldn't have known my potential in life. I have been blessed with the opportunity of attending post-secondary school, which has given me knowledge about myself and the world that has made me who I am today.

Tell us about your dreams for the future of girls around the world:

I dream of a world in which girls and women are empowered themselves and by others to not only reach for their dreams, but achieve them and excel.

Tammy Lau

Age: 20

Hometown: Toronto, Ont.

How has Malala inspired you in your volunteer work?

I admire Ms. Yousafzai’s continued advocacy for the right of females to have access to education even after she has been faced with ultimate adversity. Watching the actions of Malala, an unapologetic young woman of colour who refuses to be silenced, fuels me to take on volunteer roles and leadership positions where I strive to be myself. Not only does she inspire me to raise awareness about the hardships faced by females, especially those who are part of marginalized groups, but she inspires me to put myself out there and stand proudly for all that I represent.

What difference has access to education made in your life?

Access to education has connected me to wonderful mentors in the world of academia. I’ve had mentors come in the form of teachers, professors, and fellow students at all levels of education. I am a STEM student, and I have realized the impact that mentorship, especially by women and women of colour, have in the field. Without the freedom to pursue my studies, I would not have met so many inspiring individuals who are fighting to make sure that other females don’t have to go through what they did to get to the points they are at in their careers, nor would I have realize realized the need to join this fight.

Tell us about your dreams for the future of girls around the world:

I want to see a future where females of all race, class, and gender are on level playing grounds with each other, and their male counterparts. My dream is that women of all backgrounds can learn from each other and fight through their shared struggles as equals. In order for that to happen, we need to listen to the voices of strong young women like Ms. Yousafzai. We shouldn’t try to interpret their words, but we should stand with them as they work to empower girls who can see themselves in these female figures.

Stephanie Wang

Age: 16

Hometown: Toronto

How has Malala inspired you in your volunteer work?

I think her perseverance in the face of adversity — literally — is so admirable. The problems that I encounter when I think about trying to raise money or awareness in my community don't even compare to what she's gone through. Instead of being beaten down by her ordeal, she pushed through with a voice ten times as amplified and that's something that gives me courage. 

What difference has access to education made in your life?

Free education is something that I took for granted for most of my life. Without it, I wouldn't have been able to write these responses or even have this opportunity. Having constant access to all the resources around me is something I can't imagine living without.

Tell us about your dreams for the future of girls around the world:

I dream of a world where women are recognized for their worth. Equal opportunity is not celebrated because it is the norm. Girls are not belittled or patronized, but whose voices are amplified regardless of age. 

Amanda Chudobey-Berber

Age: 16

Hometown: Montreal

How has Malala inspired you in your volunteer work?

Malala has inspired me to take action on problems around the world. She has reminded me to not take education for granted. Her powerful actions make me want to be a better person and to influence others around me in a positive way, just like her. 

What difference has access to education made in your life?

Having access to education has taught me to speak my mind and to gain insight about what has happened and is happening around the globe. Having the gift of education is a blessing, and it allows you to be opened minded. Most of all, education gives you the chance to be creative, to think freely, and to dream bigger.

Tell us about your dreams for the future of girls around the world:

One of my biggest dreams is to have a positive influence on the female community. I wish to play a big role some day and be a voice for the thousands of girls around the world who wish to be empowered with big dreams and desires. 

Check back next week to hear what these young women have to say about hearing Malala speak in person!

Thank you to all our youth and student volunteers, who empower others by living out this manifesto: