Malala Yousafzai was 11 when she became an activist, fighting for the right of girls to stay in school in Pakistan, when the Taliban immediately took her. Five years later, after surviving an assassination attempt for her work, she co-founded a nonprofit, the Malala Fund, which aims to give every child on the planet access to 12 years of free education by the end of the decade. In a new course on MasterClass, she shares what she’s learned about advocacy with anyone who wants to make change too, especially other young people.
“When we are in school and when we are young, we are told that we have to get old and then you can become agents of change,” she says. “But one thing I have learned from my own story is that if you know your story, and if you know your message, and you are telling the truth, then this is when advocacy and the campaign begins. “
1: do your research
At the Malala Fund, the team uses a four-step cycle to approach campaigns. Once someone has decided on a problem to solve, the first step is to do some in-depth research, including talking to both experts and people who have direct contact with the problem. “You have to understand exactly why you are fighting,” Yousafzai says. In one of the MasterClass sessions, with Lewis Iwu, who advises her on advocacy, Yousafzai explains how to sketch a “problem tree” that maps all the causes and consequences of the problem you are studying.
“We have an amazing advocacy team that doesn’t start with something without thinking,” she says. “They are always thinking about the issues we are focusing on. For example, we know that girls’ education is not a separate issue. It is linked to so many of the issues we are talking about right now, from COVID-19 and climate change to reducing poverty and improving economies. And studies and research show that when girls go to school, we do better in all of these areas. “
2: Identify your strategy
Other class sessions explain how to set goals and then plan a campaign, going through the steps of “critical path analysis”, a plan for getting small wins, and then bigger goals on the way to. a final victory. The Malala Fund, of course, is not trying to meet its 2030 goal of free education for all right now. A current campaign focuses on Afghanistan, where the Taliban allowed boys to go back to school two months ago, but haven’t allowed the same for girls. Smaller campaigns along the way help raise awareness of the problem, gain more support, and learn lessons to achieve the end goal.
3: Take action
In another class session, Yousafzai chats with Amika George, the young activist who campaigned for the UK government to provide free supplies to girls, because statistically girls who cannot afford such products have tendency to miss school. Yousafzai points out that action can take many forms and can start small.
“One thing I really insisted on in my [MasterClass] was to tell young people that it is not difficult to become an activist, because we also have to look at the small actions that we take in the context of activism, ”she said. “It is not necessary to organize a demonstration of 100,000 people in the street. Activism can take different forms and forms. So even when you’re doing a presentation in your school assembly and raising awareness about climate change, or whatever, you’re doing advocacy. You are part of a larger movement that is happening. You lend him your voice.
Yousafzai is inspired by the number of young people who are already strong advocates. “We’ve seen it with climate change,” she says. “Young people are not only talking about it on social networks, but they also want to demonstrate in the street. They understand the issues and how it’s going to affect them and what needs to happen, what decision makers need to do. And they are also taking steps to lobby for these policies. And we saw it at COP26.
4: Make an impact
The class also discusses the critical step of analyzing the impact of a campaign. This includes being honest about what went wrong. “You also learn about times when you don’t reach your goals, and you try to understand what you could have done better and how you can make sure you keep your advocacy going while improving it and making it more powerful and impactful. “, she says. . And, she adds, even if a campaign is unsuccessful in a particular goal, like passing a new law, there are still other benefits to the process, including building support for change.