Last month in Dubai, Malala Fund held its third annual Gulmakai Network Global Gathering. The week-long conference provides Malala Fund Gulmakai Champions with the opportunity to collaborate, attend trainings and connect with the organisation’s co-founders, board and staff.
Thirty-seven Gulmakai Champions attended the 2019 Global Gathering — their work for girls’ education spans Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey. The conference focused on capacity building, networking and celebrating the Gulmakai Network achievements of the previous year.
“The Global Gathering allows the champions from across the world to share experiences, learn from each other, exchange ideas and collaborate on mutual objectives,” said Malala Fund’s Chief Programmes Officer Maliha Khan. “It is essential in turning a group of individual activists into a vibrant network that is greater than the sums of its parts.”
During the week, Malala and Ziauddin Yousafzai discussed how their work as local girls’ education advocates in Pakistan inspired the creation of the Gulmakai Network. They also shared advice for Gulmakai Champions and their vision for the network’s future. Board members, including board chair Susan McCaw, spoke about their careers and advised Gulmakai Champions on business models and scaling their work. And Malala Fund staff led sessions on social media and the organisation’s advocacy priorities.
Gulmakai Champions led workshops to discuss how they’re addressing threats to girls' education in their communities. Nayla Fahed, a Gulmakai Champion from Lebanon, held a session about how her organisation created Tabshoura in a Box, a digital learning platform that helps Syrian refugee girls without internet access the educational materials they need.
Gulmakai Champions Zarqa Yaftali, Deema Hiram, Zarmina S.
“You feel like you’re not doing the work alone — that you’re part of a movement,” said Pakistani Gulmakai Champion Huma Faran about the gathering. “There are like-minded people who have the same goal: girls’ education.” Huma is part of the newest cohort of Gulmakai Champions. With her Gulmakai Network grant, she is leading a national advocacy campaign calling on four provincial governments in Pakistan to increase the number of girls’ schools and the budget allocation to education.
At 22, Munira Yerima from Nigeria is the youngest Gulmakai Champion. In Munira’s home community of Maiduguri, parents are often hesitant to send their daughters back to school after they were forced out by Boko Haram insurgents. With support from her Gulmakai Network grant, Munira leads a group of local leaders, parents and school officials in educating families on the value of girls’ education.
Malala Fund's board, staff and Gulmakai Champions
“I had incredible conversations with activists from all over the world — we shared ideas that I’m going to take back and it’s going to help me in my work,” Munira said. “I learned about advocacy tools, and that I can use different tactics to approach different target [audiences].”
At the end of the week, Gulmakai Champions attended the Global Education and Skill Forum, which brought together leaders from the public, private and social sectors, including present and past heads of government, ministers of education and 2,000 participants from 144 countries.
Learn more about the Gulmakai Network at malala.org/gulmakai-network.