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Malala Fund Campaigning Globally for Girls’ Education in Tandem with Film Release

Earlier this month, He Named Me Malala, the feature-length documentary on the inspiring story of Nobel Laureate and girls’ education activist Malala Yousafzai, opened in theatres across the U.S. and Canada. To accompany the release, her charity, the Malala Fund, launched a Stand #withMalala global campaign to encourage people to stand up and take action for education rights.

The documentary was produced by Fox Searchlight Pictures and directed by Davis Guggenheim of An Inconvenient Truth and Waiting for Superman. The film focuses on showing that Malala is a normal girl, with attention on her home life and relationship with her father, to try to help young girls relate and realize that they too can achieve extraordinary things.

"The theme of the movie is how an ordinary person can find their voice and how powerful you can be if you express that," Guggenheim told The Hollywood Reporter. "Girls respond to this movie and connect to this idea that speaking up is a vital part of their lives. ... Girls all over the world confront [the same issue], which is, do they feel equal? Do they feel strong enough to speak out?"

The film opens with a tale explaining that Malala is named for an Afghani heroine who rallied retreating Pashtun fighters to fight against British invaders at the 1880 Battle of Maiwand, and was killed during the fighting. She made the name her own when she held her bravely spoke out in favor of girls’ rights to education, which the Taliban banned in Pakistan in 2009, and survived an attempted assassination by the group in 2012.

"This film tells the story of one girl, but I am one of many," Malala said. "There are millions of girls denied their right to education. Let us raise our voices, stand with girls, stand up for their rights and ensure every one of them gets the chance to learn. Education is the key to peace and a better future for all."

Instead of hosting a traditional premiere, 21st Century Fox partnered with the LA Fund for Public Education to host a special screening for an audience of nearly 7,000 public high school girls from the Los Angeles area. The audience received a video message from First Lady Michelle Obama encouraging them not to listen to people who doubt them and persevere to prove them wrong.

While equal rights to education may still be a contentious issue in certain parts of the world, here in the Western world we're seeing more and more evidence pointing to the business case for gender diversity in business: A recent McKinsey study cites “$28 trillion of additional annual GDP in 2025 in the full-potential scenario of bridging the gender gap” in business, further evidence of the undeniable importance of ensuring girls around the world have access to education.

The Malala Fund launched a global Students Stand with Malala initiative that provides free tickets and covers other expenses for students to attend weekday screenings of the film. In the U.S., the program is offered in 25 cities, and more than 100,000 public school students were signed up. In the UK, the Fund launched the Malala Youth Voice programme to help students aged 13-19 develop their confidence, public speaking and campaigning skills. Students can also enter a filmmaking competition to win a trip to London to attend an exclusive private film screening, an iPad 2 Air, a copy of Malala’s book for everyone in their class, and more. Entries will be accepted until Friday, November 13th.

Supporters can also join the conversation using #withMalala on Twitter or donate to the Malala Fund’s education projects in Kenya, Nigeria, and Pakistan, as well as Jordan and Lebanon, which are supporting Syrian refugee girls.

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