Gulmakai Network

Education activists like Malala and Ziauddin present the strongest challenge to barriers that keep girls out of school.

Malala Fund’s initiative — the Gulmakai Network — supports the work of education champions in developing countries and speeds up progress towards girls’ secondary education around the world.

Threats to girls’ education — like poverty, war and gender discrimination — differ between countries and communities. Local educators and activists understand challenges in their communities and are best placed to identify, innovate and advocate for policy and programmatic solutions.

Malala Fund believes in these remarkable champions and we’re investing in their work so that every girl can learn and lead without fear.

Gulmakai's Inaugural Class

Meet our first group of Gulmakai champions! Over the next several years, we expect to see the work of these remarkable women and men result in substantial gains for girls’ education. One of our ten inaugural champions wishes to remain anonymous for their security purposes.

Areebah Shahid


Areebah Shahid serves as head of programmes at Pakistan Youth Change Advocates. Her project focuses on developing a youth-led advocacy campaign to increase secondary education opportunities for girls in northwest Pakistan. As there are twice as many boys’ schools as girls' schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, they advocate for legislators and policymakers to allocate greater resources to girls’ education. The project already launched a community mobilisation and media campaign to raise awareness of the importance of enrolling girls in secondary education.

Gulalai Ismail


Gulalai Ismail co-founded Aware Girls with her sister when she was 16 years old. Aware Girls works for gender equality and peace in Pakistan. Her project will work to increase girls’ secondary school enrolment and retention in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. They will encourage the provincial government to make 12 years of education compulsory for girls and increase the budget for education. Her project will also train young women in advocacy and raise awareness of the importance of girls’ education amongst families and communities.

Habiba Mohammed


Habiba Mohammed is the co-director of Centre for Girls’ Education (CGE) in Nigeria. Before joining CGE nine years ago, Habiba was a teacher for 16 years. With her Gulmakai Network grant, CGE is launching an advocacy and media campaign compelling the Kaduna State government to improve the quality of literacy instruction in government primary schools and eliminate Senior Secondary School fees. CGE will also enhance its bridge programme for out-of-school girls in preparation for the programme’s expansion, and develop an e-learning package for its community-based clubs that serve rural adolescent girls.

Rotimi Olawale


Rotimi Olawale is the co-founder of YouthHubAfrica, an online platform to engage young people in social change. He has more than 10 years experience in youth advocacy and development work. Rotimi will use his grant to advocate in five states in Nigeria for the passage of the Child Rights Act, which guarantees children the right to education through junior secondary school. In support of this goal, YouthHubAfrica will train journalists to report on the issue and develop state-level advocacy campaigns using social media and other tools.

Nayla Fahed


Nayla Fahed is president and co-founder of Lebanese Alternative Learning, an organisation that uses digital learning platforms to reach vulnerable communities. Her Gulmakai Network grant focuses on expanding a STEM e-learning programme to Syrian refugee girls in public schools and non-formal learning centres in Lebanon. By working with the Lebanese government to deploy the e-learning platform, Nayla will reach many more students.

Gamze Karadag Koc


Gamze Karadag Koc is the vice president of Mavi Kalem, an organisation serving vulnerable women and girls in Turkey. Her grant will seek to improve government policies on Syrian refugee girls’ education and increase their enrolment in public Turkish secondary schools. It aims to do so through community campaigning, mentorship programmes and advocacy meetings with critical stakeholders in Turkey.

Fadi Hallisso


Fadi Hallisso is the co-founder and CEO of Basmeh & Zeitooneh, a Lebanese organisation that works with Syrian refugees living in Lebanon and Turkey. Through his grant, Fadi will advocate for Syrian refugees issues in the region, focusing on issues related to girls’ education. He looks to expand an accelerated learning and leadership programme for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon and Turkey.

Illustration for gulmakai page

Rahmatullah Arman


Rahmatullah Arman is the CEO of Teach for Afghanistan, serving more than 10,000 girls in Afghan schools. Arman will use his grant to recruit promising college graduates to teach girls in public schools in underserved regions. Teach for Afghanistan plans to use evidence from this project to advocate for the government to financially support the model in the future.

Gulmakai landing page

Sabawoon Zaland


Sabawoon Zaland is Project Manager at Safa FM radio, the most popular FM station in eastern Afghanistan. With his Gulmakai Network grant, Zaland will produce radio segments about the importance of adolescent girls’ education. The project aims to counter negative beliefs, perceptions and traditional attitudes opposed to education for adolescent girls. It aims to reach over one million listeners and increase girls’ enrolment in schools.

Gulmakai Network Mission

To accelerate and amplify the impact of developing country advocates in countries where girls are most likely to miss out on secondary education.

The Meaning of "Gulmakai"

Did you know that Malala began her fight for girls’ education as a secret blogger in Pakistan? Gulmakai Network is named after the pseudonym 11-year-old Malala used when writing a blog for the BBC about life under the Taliban. We believe this is a fitting name for an initiative that will expand the work of activists just like Malala and Ziauddin!


Malala Fund plans to grow the Gulmakai Network, investing up to $10 million per year to support, train and scale the work of education champions in 10 developing countries, starting with Afghanistan, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey.

For information on opportunities to support our work, contact