Little actions to big outcomes

Anya (centre) poses with her friend Sophia (far left) and teacher Mr. Storti in front of a poster advertising the bookmark contest. (Courtesy of Anya Sen)

Anya (centre) poses with her friend Sophia (far left) and teacher Mr. Storti in front of a poster advertising the bookmark contest. (Courtesy of Anya Sen)

How students like me can support girls’ education in their communities.

“Lemonade! One cup of lemonade for a dollar!” I yell. Suddenly, what seems like a million customers come rushing up to my stand. As I pour the refreshing drink into tiny cups, I steal a glance at the poster behind me. The words “Girls deserve to learn!” along with Malala Yousafzai’s picture stare back at me and an ear-to-ear smile spreads across my face. I’m so happy to be holding a lemonade stand to support girls’ education on Malala’s 21st birthday.

130 million girls around the world are out of school right now. That is a lot of girls. The reasons girls are denied an education include poverty, violence and the distance to school. My lemonade stand is just one of the ways I’ve started to take action in my community to help girls. Here are some of my ideas for how other students can also support girls’ education:

Anya holds a lemonade stand on Malala’s 21st birthday. (Courtesy of Anya Sen)

Anya holds a lemonade stand on Malala’s 21st birthday. (Courtesy of Anya Sen)

Raise awareness. One way we can support girls’ education is by educating others on the issue. I recently held an assembly at my school where I spoke to 150 of my schoolmates about girls’ education and the barriers girls face going to school. Along with a representative from Malala Fund, I told them some statistics about girls’ education, including the fact that if all the girls who are out of school lived in one country, it would be the tenth largest country in the world. People were shocked by this and certainly gave it some thought over the next few days. I also told them that girls’ education can help promote economic growth, create peace and even save lives.

I was nervous at first to hold this assembly, but this is the cause I am most passionate about so I pushed my fears away. I was amazed by the response in my peers. People began approaching me and asking for ways they could help. The most rewarding news was from my principal — he called me over to inform me that a number of second graders formed something that he called “Anya’s Army.” This group of motivated kids were touched by what they had learned during the assembly and wanted to join me in raising awareness about girls’ education. I strongly suggest that those who want to spread awareness about girls’ education can simply start by educating their own classmates first.

Be creative. My school was excited to help promote this cause so I organized a competition where over 100 kids designed bookmarks about girls’ education. Students and teachers created posters, brainstormed with me and made recommendations on how to help. The winners got Malala’s autographed books and the bookmarks became permanent fixtures at school to keep reminding everybody about this cause. This was a small initiative that didn't take a lot of effort, yet it had a huge impact on everyone.

A sampling of the bookmark submissions. (Courtesy of Anya Sen)

A sampling of the bookmark submissions. (Courtesy of Anya Sen)

Raise money. People can also contribute by raising money in whatever way they can. The first step in my campaign for girls’ education was to create a fundraising page for Malala Fund. I have gotten numerous donations there and I am very thankful for the generosity that people have shown. You can learn how to start your own fundraiser here.

As I mentioned earlier, I also raised money through a lemonade stand. As I sold lemonade, I shared Malala’s story with my customers and encouraged them to help. I learned that even such a small action could have a significant impact.

Reach out to organizations. Finally, you can contact organizations you care about and ask how you can help. I reached out to Malala Fund about a year back and have been collaborating with them since. You can start small like I did and look for opportunities locally such as in your school or even your own neighborhood. No matter how small your actions are, it always helps. Like Malala says, “When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.”

Through Assembly, Malala Fund is helping girls around the world share their stories. Subscribe to receive our newsletter and learn about the next generation of leaders.

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About the author

Anya Sen is a 10-year-old student and girls’ education advocate who lives in New York. When she grows up, she wants to become a doctor. Anya’s hobbies include playing chess and percussion. During her free time, she likes to play with her two dogs and her older sister.