The Inspiration That is Malala Caught on Film

Hollywood, California (HRW) – In the documentary film “He Named Me Malala,” we see Malala Yousafzai at school, at home, and in her work as an advocate for children’s education. A Pakistani schoolgirl who survived being shot in the head by a Taliban gunman, Malala is also the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize. It can be easy to forget that she’s also a teenage girl, something the documentary – released today in the United States – reminds of us of, as we see her worrying about school and fitting in. Now living in England, we see the challenges she faces integrating into a new country, as well as the strong Yousafzai family bond.

Image Source: Nada Ćukalović Flickr, Creative Commons Human Rights

Image Source: Nada Ćukalović Flickr, Creative Commons
Human Rights

Malala’s role as an education advocate shines through. She visits a Kenyan girls’ school, opens a school for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, and visits Nigeria as part of the#BringBackOurGirls campaign. Her nominations for the Nobel Peace Prizefeature centrally: her calm acceptance of not winning the first time, her delight and honor at winning the second time, and her emphasis that the win is for all children who cannot access education.

At the heart of Malala’s film, and her work, is the message that every child should have access to a good quality education. She wants to “make this movie a movement” and have the world engage. In her eyes, the movie and its associated campaign are a call to action for students, policy-makers, and activists at the grassroots level.

There is much work to be done. Approximately 124 million children are not in school. Children are denied an education on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation,gender identity, and disabilities. Other children cannot access education because they workto help support their families. Geographical distance and financial barriers, such as school fees and materials, also limit access to education.

Girls face also challenges due to early marriage, pregnancy, lack of accommodation for menstrual hygiene, and cultural beliefs. Natural disasters, health crises, and armed conflict also have a significant effect on children’s education. The military use of schools and attacks on schools place children in danger and prevent them from attending school.

International law guarantees the right to education for all children. As Malala’s film pleads, it’s time to act and ensure this right is properly implemented. A new campaign calls for people to #StandWithMalala. After watching this film, you may find yourself already there.

This report prepared by Helen Griffiths for Human Rights Watch.